Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Miranda and the Psychology of the Confession

Last week we looked at police interrogation techniques as they related to Miranda.  We learned police interrogations were carefully designed, guilt presumptive processes which worked by increasing a suspect's anxiety, instilling a feeling of hopelessness, and distorting their perception of choices . . .  all leading them to believe they will benefit by making a statement to the police.  

In review, we learned the police wanted to first isolate a suspect, allowing them to sit alone and in sparsely furnished surroundings.  This increased stress and increased the person's incentive to free themselves from the situation.   Then by confronting the suspect outright the police hoped to increase anxiety and induce a sense of hopelessness.  

Investigators regularly confront suspects and emphasize to them the only question remaining open is "why" (and not "whether") they committed the crime. In other words, the police presume the person under interrogation is guilty. Additionally, some of the most common police tactics include appealing to the person's self-interest, confronting them with actual (or purported) evidence of guilt, undermining their confidence in denials, appealing to the importance of cooperation, offering moral justifications for committing the crime, and minimizing the seriousness of the offense.

The Miranda court recognized the prevalence and use of these police interrogation tactics and concluded isolation was one of the most significant aspects of these methods.  They concluded custodial interrogations contained inherently compelling pressures that undermined a person's ability to make free and informed choices whether to speak to the police. 

So, never talk to the police when you are the focus of a criminal investigation without the aid of a qualified criminal defense lawyer.  You have the right to remain silent.  Use it! People commonly underestimate the investigator's ability to obtain their incriminating admissions.  So don't feel compelled to discuss your case with anyone except your attorney. 

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