The Risk of False Confessions

We have been raised from a young age to trust the police. However, in certain circumstances the trust we all implicitly place in the police becomes something which can be used against us. This statement rings especially true when a juvenile is being accused of committing a crime. Juveniles are ill equipped to handle the high pressure tactics of a police interrogation and statistically run a higher risk of making a false confession.

When the police request a chance to talk to your child, they have a single goal in mind. That goal is to produce evidence that will be used to help convict the juvenile at a trial. The primary objective of a police interrogation is to secure a confession. In order to obtain this confession, the police employ the “Reid Method of Interrogation.” This method is specially designed to get the accused to confess. The questions asked by police are structured to discourage any denial of committing an offense, and place the juvenile in a position where they feel as though a confession is required. While adults have a difficult time dealing with this extremely aggressive style of interrogation, it poses much more serious concerns when it comes to children.

An article in the North Carolina Law Review illustrates the primary problem of juvenile vulnerability to making false confessions to the police.1 In the study, it was found that one of the most common reasons for juvenile false confessions is the often delusional belief a confession will allow the child to return home.2 False confessions are so rampant with juveniles the Wall Street Journal, in conjunction with the National Registry of Exonerations, found 38% of juvenile’s subsequently exonerated had made a false confession.3 In comparison this number is 11% for adults who have been falsely convicted.4 These numbers illustrate the significance of why juvenile police interrogations frequently result in false confessions.

The studies demonstrate the risk of false confessions by juveniles. A false confession is a serious possibility when a child is subjected to a stressful police interrogation. The child may provide a false confession due to the erroneous assumption the matter will end if the police are given what they want to hear. A child in police custody will say whatever they believe is necessary to get out of the detention.

Furthermore, unlike in adult criminal law, there is no opportunity for bail in juvenile cases. An arrested adult is provided with bail set by the judge. The criminally accused then will have the opportunity to hire a bonding agency, pay a certain amount of money, and secure their release from jail. In juvenile cases, there is no bail process. Instead, a detained child must wait for a detention hearing to determine if they are allowed to leave police custody. Juveniles often believe making an an admission of guilt, true or not, will improve their chances of being released from detention. The child may fabricate a story in order to accomplish the short term goal of being released from detention. This end result places the child at much greater risk for ultimately being convicted.

Stuckle and Associates will immediately take steps to ensure your child is protected from police interrogation. We recognize the importance of protecting the rights of your child. Stuckle and Associates will make sure the police do not have an opportunity to pressure your child into a confession. Our law firm will protect your child and provide the best possible opportunity to obtain a successful outcome.

1 Drizin and Leo, The Problems of False Confessions in the Post-DNA World. North Carolina Law Review 82: 891-1007 (2004).

2 Id.

3 Elinson, False Confessions Dog Teens. Wall Street Journal, September 8th, 2013.

4 Id.