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Why false confessions can and do happen in criminal cases

Criminal law is complicated. And so is human behavior. When you put a person in an interrogation situation and they are being questioned about a crime, the complexity of the law and of human behavior combine to make for surprising outcomes at times. 

At times, unfortunately, the person being questioned becomes a victim of their own limitations and might go so far as to admit to something that they didn't do. Those who are not in the interrogation room probably can't understand why anyone would make a false confession, but there are various reasons why innocent people admit guilt.

A recent study in which researchers watched 88 college students in an experiment serves as a warning that sleeplessness is a reason why someone might make a false confession. Half of the subjects were told to sleep while the others were told not to. Those who did not rest were significantly more likely to sign a statement that they pressed a button that they didn't press. 

This study suggests just one possible reason for false confessions. But Innocence Project members put forth several other reasons why people who did not commit a crime in question admit to doing so anyway. Here are just some of those possible false admission causes:

  • duress
  • intoxication
  • mental impairment
  • fear of harsh sentencing
  • fear of violence

Another reason why someone might wrongly confess is because they simply do not understand the situation, the law or the possible outcome of the legal circumstances. It is important to leave off with this cause of false confessions because criminal defense lawyers can and should help ensure that someone does not make certain kind of statements and decisions upon questioning without proper advice. Getting an experienced defense attorney on your side as soon as any questioning begins is crucial in order to protect your best interests. 

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