False Confessions In Child Sexual Abuse Cases

Your right to avoid making incriminating statements is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and as a result law enforcement must follow certain procedures to obtain a confession. However, when investigating certain crimes police a tendency to push this envelope in order to obtain a conviction. As a result, law enforcement may obtain a “false confession” of guilt for the crime for a number of reasons, which can place an innocent individual behind bars while the true perpetrator goes free.


False confessions happen for a number of reasons, mostly having to do with law enforcement pressuring or coercing the suspect into admitting guilt. Because it’s difficult to prove that this confession is false, this evidence is often admissible to the court and used to convict the individual who confessed. There are three primary reasons for false confessions.

Voluntary Confessions: These are often given with little to no coercion or pressure from law enforcement. While it may seem puzzling that someone would admit to a crime they didn’t commit under their own accord, psychologists have suggested that the desire for notoriety or self-punishment for previous transgressions fuels these confessions.

Compliant False Confessions: These confessions are often given under pressure from law enforcement to put an end to the issue in exchange for an anticipated benefit or reward of some sort, usually to end social pressure against them. Often these individuals mistakenly believe that the short-term benefits of a false confession outweigh the long-term consequences of an intense and scrutinized interrogation.

Persuaded False Confessions: This is the name for confessions that are ultimately false but given when a suspect begins to doubt his or her own memory and admits that he or she could have actually committed the crime.


Sometimes false confessions are the unintentional result of mistakes by police investigators. Other times police use underhanded tactics to try to obtain a confession from a suspect. Misclassification errors are the most common cause. Misclassification occurs when police believe that a suspect is guilty when he or she is in fact innocent. Coercion errors are confessions that are only obtained when police try to convince the suspect to confess, either by threatening a harsher sentence for a lack of confession or a lesser sentence in exchange for one. Contamination errors happen when police overtly twist or shape the suspect’s statements into a confession. A suspect’s seemingly innocuous statement can often be put into a context that sounds like an admission. For example, in the movie My Cousin Vinny, the interrogator accuses one of the defendants of murder. The defendant responds: “I killed him?” asking the investigator a question, but the investigator treats the statement as “I killed him.” The investigator goes on to tell the prosecutor that the defendant admitted to killing the victim.

At Berry Law, we are dedicated to helping our clients fight back against criminal charges. False confessions often occur because law enforcement either intentionally or unintentionally pressured the suspect or put words in his or her mouth.

If you are arrested and charged with a serious crime like child sexual assault, call Berry Law today at 402.814.6550 and request your initial consultation.

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