When is a “Voluntary” Confession Not Truly Voluntary?
In my experience as a Boston criminal defense lawyer, most adults can recite the Miranda warnings (“You have the right to remain silent; anything you say can and will be used against you . . . You have the right to an attorney . . . .”). Once arrested, however, many of these same adults abandon their right to remain silent. Why? The answer often lies in the police tactics used to elicit a “voluntary” confession.
“Totality of the Circumstances” Determine Voluntariness
The U.S. Constitution prohibits physical abuse to coerce a confession, as well as other, less blatant forms of coercion, such as psychological mistreatment, denial of food, threats, and sleep deprivation. In assessing whether a defendant freely and voluntarily confessed, a court will consider the “totality of the circumstances” of the interrogation, including the unique characteristics of the defendant. Courts tend to focus on the defendant’s age, level of education, psychological and emotional state, mental capacity, and experience with the criminal justice system.
Courts will not rule a confession coerced unless the police conducted the interrogation in an aggressive or unfairly manipulative manner in an effort to overcome the resistance of the defendant to answering their questions. An unsolicited confession, even from a mentally ill defendant, is generally considered a voluntary confession. However, the coercive nature of the police tactics will be measured against the defendant’s mental, psychological and emotional state. Thus, for example, relatively mild interrogation tactics may be sufficient to render a confession involuntary if the defendant was mentally ill or impaired, or otherwise weakened by injury, alcohol or drugs.
- Whether the defendant was advised of his constitutional rights.
- The length of the detention and the length of the interrogation.
- Whether the police prevented the defendant from eating or sleeping.
- Ultimatums or guarantees made by the police.
The police are not permitted to falsely inform a suspect that, unless he cooperated, he will forfeit government benefits or that the government will take his children from him. Detectives are not allowed to On the other hand, promises to tell the prosecution or the judge that the suspect cooperated (or did not cooperate) likely will not render a confession involuntary.
Contact the Boston criminal defense lawyers at the Mahoney Criminal Defense Group
A “confession” does not have to be the final word in your case. An experienced Boston criminal defense lawyer can review the facts surrounding your interrogation and determine if your statements were, in fact, not made voluntarily. Call the Mahoney Criminal Defense Group, at 617-492-0055, to schedule a free initial consultation.
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