Why would someone confess to a crime they did not commit?

If you live in New Jersey and have been accused of committing a crime, you may go into questioning confident that you are innocent, and nothing can sway you from claiming you are. You may also be surprised to find out that the Innocence Project cites 360 wrongful convictions that have been turned over by new advancements in DNA evidence and many of them involved a false confession by the accused. It can be hard to imagine why a person would claim they committed a crime when they are innocent, but the frightening reality is that it can happen.

Research shows that there are some common reasons why people may confess when they are innocent. These include the following:

  • Perceived threat of force or use of force during the interrogation by law enforcement officials
  • Suspect’s fear that they will receive a harsher punishment if they do not confess
  • Dishonest techniques used in interrogations, such as the claim of physical evidence when it does not exist
  • Stress, hunger, mental limitations, substance abuse, exhaustion or limited education of the person being questioned
  • Young people are often unaware about their rights and have the desire to please authority figures
  • Perceived and real intimidation by law enforcement during interrogation

Many states have pushed to have all interrogations recorded digitally to protect both the suspect and law enforcement officials. New Jersey is included in the list of states that currently require all custodial interrogations to be recorded. This can protect the accused by created a record of the entire questioning process, ensure that rights are protected while a person is questioned and deter coercive or improper techniques that may be used if a recording device is not present.

This is for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as legal advice.