Innocence isn't enough to protect you once you've become the target of a police investigation. In fact, many innocent people end up making false confessions that lead to their convictions in criminal court, with little or no other evidence against them. This is what you should know.

The Younger You Are, The More Likely That You Will Make A False Confession

Studies have shown that both adults and juveniles are prone to making false confessions under pressure from the police. However, younger people are particularly susceptible. At least one study found that 38% of wrongful convictions involving juveniles were due to false confessions.

Yet, being an adult doesn't make you immune to the pressures of interrogation—around 11% of adult wrongful convictions are due to false confessions as well.

Imaginary Evidence Can Lead To A False Confession

It's not totally clear what triggers a false confession, but studies indicate that it's relatively easy for the police to convince someone of their guilt, simply by pretending to have evidence of it.

In one lab experiment, 69% of people signed false confessions stating that they'd caused a computer system failure after being told there was real evidence of their guilt (even though there wasn't). Even worse, 28% of the people confessing came to believe that they were actually guilty, and 9% made up details to confirm their guilt!

The study indicated that coercion tactics used by the police — including lying about evidence — persuade the innocent that their own memories can't be trusted. In other situations, the innocent lie because the police convince them that the evidence is certain, and that they are all but officially convicted anyhow. They are led to believe that confession will somehow improve their situation, and are naive enough to believe that they can confess and go home, or get a lighter sentence.

Other Factors Can Also Influence False Confessions

In addition to outright lying about evidence (which is perfectly legal during the course of police interrogations) there are other factors that can lead to a person's false confession. Psychological pressure is often applied through:

  • isolation of the suspect for long periods of time during "breaks" in interrogation.
  • keeping suspects in small, sparse rooms.
  • keeping suspects in interrogation for hours at a time (with an average of 16.3 hours for a false confession).
  • promising a suspect that he or she can go home if he or she confesses (which is also legal).

It's also been proven that people who suffer from common conditions like depression, ADHD, or other mental and cognitive disorders are also very susceptible to coercive police tactics and are more likely to make false confessions.

An Attorney Can Protect You From A False Confession During Questioning

It's natural to want to let the police know that you are innocent and that they should be focusing their energies elsewhere. But it's important that you do so in a way that keeps you protected from making a huge mistake — like a false confession. An attorney can protect you by:

  • limiting the amount of time that you are held for interrogation,
  • asking to review any "evidence" against you before allowing you to make a statement,
  • keeping the police from lying to you about "deals" for leniency if you confess,
  • keeping the police from subtly giving you information about motive or other details of the crime in order to work into your confession,
  • making sure that you have had adequate sleep prior to questioning,
  • making sure that you have access to any food, medication, or other basic needs, and
  • putting a halt to any especially aggressive interview tactics.

If you've become the target of a police investigation, the very first thing that you want to do is exercise your right to remain silent — until after you've spoken with your attorney. You can't trust to innocence alone as your source of protection against a future conviction. For more information, contact a company like Bare Law Firm.