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Coerced Confessions Attorney in Chicago, IL

Coerced confessions are basically a forced, false confession from a suspect. In other words, the coerced confession is involuntary. These types of confessions can lead to wrongful convictions of innocent suspects. In fact, 29% of the 375 people who were proven innocent and exonerated through DNA testing were wrongfully convicted due to false confessions according to the Innocence Project.
If you or someone you love was wrongfully convicted due to a false confession, you deserve justice. We will study all the evidence and statements in your case and prove your innocence in a court of law. To speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney at Curcio Law Group, call 312-321-1111 for a free consultation.
coerced confessions

Three Types of False Confessions

There are presently three types of false confessions under criminal law. There are voluntary, compliant, and persuaded false confessions.

Voluntary False Confessions

A voluntary false confession is basically when a suspect admits to something they didn’t actually do without coercion from friends, family members, or law enforcement. Mentally ill suspects will often voluntarily admit to something they didn’t do during the interrogation process. They may do this because:
  • They want to feel some sort of emotional anguish
  • Mental illness generally gives them a warped sense of reality
  • They want to be famous for some crime they didn’t commit
  • They want to protect the person who actually committed the crime

Compliant False Confessions

This type of false confession generally happens because the suspect just wants the lengthy interrogation process to end because it’s too stressful or too painful. Suspects may falsely confess in a compliant manner because they believe:
  • That police could release them sooner as long as they give some sort of confession
  • Any sort of confession, whether it’s the truth or not, may lead to a less severe punishment

Persuaded False Confessions

A persuaded false confession happens when a suspect endures so many hours of police interrogations that they begin to doubt their experience and memory of the crime in question. Because the suspect is no longer secure in their beliefs, police may be able to persuade them into a false statement. Persuaded false confessions can fall into the definition of gaslighting. Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse where a person makes another person question their own sanity, memory, or beliefs. This can be a form of police misconduct in Chicago

What Police Interrogation Techniques are Coercive?

Physical abuse and psychological abuse are coercive and forbidden tactics during police interrogations. This is because abuse will undoubtedly lead to coerced confessions.

Physical Abuse

This kind of abuse happens during an interrogation any time officers lay hands on a suspect in an attempt to force a statement out of them. This abuse can be through hitting, choking, kicking, punching, knocking someone to the ground, etc.

Psychological Abuse

Courts consider these tactics to be psychologically abusive during police interrogations:
  • Mental or emotional tricks
  • Threats of more severe consequences if a suspect doesn’t say what happened during a crime
  • Promises of less severe consequences if a suspect says what happened during a crime
  • Withholding food, water, and sleep
  • Not providing a suspect with breaks from interrogation
Young people under the age of 18 and those who are mentally ill are more vulnerable. Therefore, they’re more likely to falsely confess because of these abusive interrogation tactics. In fact, data from the National Registry of Exonerations shows that 36% of 211 exonerees who were convicted as young people under the age of 18 falsely confessed. Meanwhile, 10% of exonerees who were convicted as adults falsely confessed.

What Police Interrogation Tactics are Permissible?

There are several interrogation tactics that are acceptable by law when it comes to getting a detailed confession from a suspect. However, some prosecutors believe that these tactics are on the border of coercion and psychological abuse. Completely legal interrogation techniques include:
  • Lying to the suspect about anything. For example, law enforcement may lie about what evidence they have against the suspect. Officers could also lie by saying that the suspect’s friend or family member already confessed that they committed the crime. Lying can pull a statement out of a suspect, whether it’s true or false.
  • Deceiving and persuading the suspect. Presently, this tactic is only allowed as long as police don’t “proximately cause a confession” according to court opinion from a 1998 case, People v. Musselwhite. This interrogation tactic is also a controversial one. In fact, Illinois and Oregon banned the use of deception during interrogations with minors according to the Innocence Project. Both state governors signed both laws in 2021, but they won’t go into effect until January 2022.
  • Becoming friends with a suspect. Law enforcement may try to become friends with the suspect during an interrogation so that they can gain trust while making them feel more comfortable. The chances of a suspect telling the truth are greater when they feel more at ease with their interrogator.

The Reid Technique

This method of interrogation is still legal and frequently used in the U.S. today. John Reid created The Reid Technique in the 50s. He was a psychologist, a polygraph expert, and a former Chicago cop. Supporters of Reid’s interrogation method say that it’s really effective at pulling a statement out of a stubborn suspect. Meanwhile, critics of this method say it produces too many false confessions, ultimately leading to more innocent people behind bars.
There are generally nine steps of interrogation involved in The Reid Technique. Basically, the goal is to make the suspect feel more comfortable with telling the truth through the investigator offering different justifications for their actions.
  1. Inform the accused that the police have identified them as a suspect based on the evidence available so far. Allow the suspect to explain why the crime occurred.
  2. Try to put the responsibility on someone else or a set of events that led to the crime. Basically, police should create explanations that will psychologically justify or excuse the crime. Police can adjust these explanations to identify the one that the suspect responds to best.
  3. Try to reduce the amount of times a suspect denies the crime.
  4. At this point in the interrogation process, the accused will frequently state why they didn’t or couldn’t commit the crime. Attempt to use this denial to get them to confess what they’ve done.
  5. To make sure that the suspect is receptive, emphasize genuineness.
  6. The accused may become more silent and attentive. Shift the conversation’s focus to providing alternatives. If they start crying, say that this is an indication of a suspect’s guilt for committing the crime.
  7. Offer the “alternative question” with two possible outcomes, with one being more acceptable in society than the other. The suspect should take the more acceptable option, but they admit guilt regardless of which option they choose. The third option that police can always use is saying that the suspect wasn’t the one who committed the crime.
  8. To establish the authenticity of the confession, have the suspect repeat the admission of guilt in front of witnesses. Then produce supporting facts.
  9. Make sure to keep a record of the suspect’s confession. Then ask the suspect to create a statement either through audio, video, or writing.
coerced confessions

What Can Prevent False Confessions from Leading to Wrongful Convictions?

One of the best ways to prevent false confessions from leading to wrongful convictions is to record the entire interrogation. That way there’s an accurate record of what happened, what each person said, and what interrogation tactics an officer used. According to the Innocence Project, Illinois is one of 29 states that requires the recording of all custodial interrogations.

How Recordings Can Benefit Innocent People

Recording an entire interrogation can benefit innocent suspects by:
  • Creating an undeniable record of what happened, what each person said, and what interrogation tactics an officer used.
  • Deterring law enforcement from using coercion because if they do, it will be on record.
  • Informing prosecutors, investigators, and judges if a suspect is mentally ill or just more vulnerable to coercion.

How Recordings Can Benefit Law Enforcement

Recording an entire interrogation can benefit law enforcement by:
  • Preventing arguments about what the officer said or how the officer treated a suspect during an interrogation
  • Keeping records of the suspect’s confessions which makes it more difficult for them to change their original story.
  • Allowing law enforcement to focus on the interview instead of getting distracted by taking notes during the interrogation.
  • Recording small details that would otherwise go unnoticed. This may help law enforcement in their investigation of the crime.
  • Increasing public trust in law enforcement while lowering the amount of complaints against police officers.

Legal Protection Against Coerced Confessions

The U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Constitution rules coerced confessions as unacceptable at trial, even if the confession is true. According to the Supreme Court in the 1978 case People v. Jimenez:

“It is axiomatic that the use in a criminal prosecution of an involuntary confession constitutes a denial of due process of law under both the federal and state Constitutions.”

A confession is only acceptable at trial if there was no coercion involved. In other words, the suspect must voluntarily confess.

How Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help?

A criminal defense attorney at Curcio Law Group can help prevent a false confession due to coercion if a person exercises their Miranda Rights. If someone exercises their Miranda Rights, they are basically saying that they won’t answer questions or provide a statement until they speak to an attorney.
A criminal defense attorney can also ask to exclude a statement from case evidence, especially if they can prove that the statement was the result of coercion. Basically, investigators can only include statements in case evidence if suspects gave them voluntarily.

Call Curcio Law Group Today

No one deserves to be behind bars for a crime they didn’t commit. Unfortunately, that’s the reality for many suspects who provided coerced confessions. Curcio Law Group wants to fight for the justice you deserve. Our law firm also handles illegal search and seizure claims as well as malicious prosecution claims in ChicagoTo speak with an experienced attorney at Curcio Law Group, call 312-321-1111 for a free consultation.