How Can a Police Interrogation Lead to a False Confession for a Crime?

 Posted on September 11,2020 in Criminal Defense

East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney false confession

For decades, American citizens have expressed various concerns about the nation’s police force over things such as the disproportionate use of violence against people of color and allegations of officers shooting unarmed suspects. According to the latest information from the Washington Post, there are approximately 5,624 people who have been shot and killed by on-duty police officers since 2015, on average about 1,000 each year. Because of that, we are now seeing many police stations across the country implementing new de-escalation and diversity training for officers. However, another widespread and concerning issue that has not been addressed in the same manner is officers who coerce or solicit false confessions from suspects of a crime.

False Confessions Are Not Uncommon

According to The Innocence Project, 375 people have been exonerated by DNA evidence for crimes that they did not commit. Of those cases, 102 cases or 27 percent were wrongfully convicted because of false confessions. Other sources have estimated that nearly $450 million has been paid out by state governments to defendants in false confession exoneration cases. 

Common Police Interrogation Methods

For more than 50 years, the Reid Interrogation Method has been the most widely accepted interrogation method for police officers in the United States. However, many criticize the technique for being outdated and often eliciting false confessions. The Reid Method involves nine steps to get a confession from a suspect, which include:

  1. Positive confrontation: The officer informs the suspect that the police have enough evidence to prove that the suspect is guilty.

  2. In Theme Development: The officer presents some sort of moral justification for the suspect’s crime

  3. Handling Denials: Nearly all suspects, guilty or not, will try to refute their involvement in the crime; the officer should deny their attempts or requests to speak.

  4. Overcoming Objections: The officer should accept any objections that the suspect has to his or her involvement in the case.

  5. Getting and Keeping the Suspect’s Attention: The officer should retain the suspect’s attention by closing the physical distance between them and making direct eye contact.

  6. Handling the Suspect’s Passive Mood: During this step, the officer continues to reinforce the moral justifications for the crime and displays signs of sympathy for the suspect.

  7. Presenting an Alternative Question: The officer will pose a question to the suspect that is phrased in a way that is based on an assumption of guilt.

  8. Having the Suspect Verbally Explain Details to You: The officer will request that the suspect recount details in his or her own words.

  9. Changing the Oral Confession to a Written Confession: The officer will then record an official statement in some way. The statement can be written or an audio or video recording.

Suggested Questioning Practices

In contrast to the Reid Model, which assumes guilt on the suspect’s part, the PEACE model is based on either proving or disproving theories. PEACE is an acronym that stands for:

  • Preparation and planning

  • Engage and explain

  • Account, clarify, and challenge

  • Closure

  • Evaluation

The idea behind the PEACE process is that a suspect who is fearful may not always be truthful. When a suspect is relaxed and feels at ease while being questioned, he or she is more likely to cooperate.

Contact a Hartford, CT Criminal Defense Attorney 

If you are accused of a crime in the United States, you always have certain rights that police are not permitted to violate during the criminal justice process. One of those rights is the right against self-incrimination, which is directly violated if you are coerced into a confession. At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we know how serious it can be if you confess to a crime that you did not commit. If you have been charged with a crime and believe that any of your rights have been violated, you should immediately contact our skilled East Hartford, CT criminal defense lawyer. To schedule a free consultation, call our office today at 860-290-8690.




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