Most people want to tell the truth. It’s in our nature. A confession to the police acknowledges our wrongdoing. When we confess, the weight of the world is lifted off our shoulders. We feel better inside, especially when the confession is given to an authority figure like a police officer. We are taught from childhood to admit to our misdeeds, apologize to the other kid, and say we are sorry. Religion teaches us to confess our sins. Voters expect the unfaithful politician to admit to his infidelity. It’s simply the right thing to do.
What could possibly be wrong with admitting to a crime? It gets you in even more trouble. Unless you are a glutton for punishment, don’t confess the crime to the police. They are not your friends. The police are only interested in solving the crime, getting a promotion, and putting you behind bars!
What can be done if you have confessed already? You need to discuss strategy with your criminal defense attorney. One option would be to file a motion with the court to suppress the use of the confession at trial. In other words, the prosecution cannot use your confession at trial if it was not freely and voluntarily given. Courts often look to the circumstances surrounding the confession when deciding if it was voluntary such as the defendant’s age, maturity, prior experience with the criminal justice system, length of detention, and the nature of the interrogation.
Police officers are highly trained in interrogation techniques that are designed to extract confessions from unwilling suspects. Officers often employ trickery and deception when obtaining confessions. The courts fortunately have held some confessions to be involuntary where the police imply that no charges would be brought or the suspect would escape from punishment if he confessed. For example, in a recent case I handled, the interrogating officer made the following promise of escape from punishment:
“Right now you’re young enough where you can get out of all this, it’s not gonna be easy, but it’s not going to be too terribly hard either, you know what I mean? Help yourself out. Cuz it is a felony, and you know what a felony means, right? I mean, that means you get a felony on your record, you think looking for a job right now is tough, try to be a convicted felon and try getting a job. Think about it. Help yourself out.”
If you have confessed already, all is not lost. You may be able to suppress the confession and weaken the prosecution’s case. Unlike the false promises of the police officer, a suppressed confession could lead to an actual escape from punishment.
Robert J. Shane
Minneapolis Criminal Defense Attorney