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Voluntary Confessions

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What Does "Voluntary Confession" Mean?

In criminal law, a confession is basically an admission of guilt that is made by the accused party. A voluntary confession is a confession that is given out of a suspect’s own free will, and has not been obtained by force, coercion, or intimidation

Under to the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, due process requires that all confessions obtained by the police must be voluntary. Violations of this due process rights will make the confession statement inadmissible as evidence in court.

How Does the Court Prove That a Confession Is Voluntary?

Depending on the state or jurisdiction, courts may use different standards for proving whether a confession is voluntary or not. For example, some jurisdictions require that the voluntariness of a confession be proven using a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. This means that the evidence must show that the statement is more than likely voluntary. On the other hand, some states and jurisdictions require a higher standard of proof, such as a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. 

In general, a confession is found to be voluntary if it is “reflects deliberateness of choice” and is the product of a “free and unconstrained will.” Again, this definition is subject to modification by the jurisdiction. The determination of voluntariness depends largely on the facts presented in the case.

What Is the Result If a Confession Is Not Voluntary?

Involuntary confessions cannot be admitted into court as evidence. Therefore, if a confession was obtained by intimidating, threatening, or using violent force against a witness, it will be excluded from trial. Also, if an involuntary confession has been used in court, a judge may sometimes choose to reverse a conviction if it was based on the coerced statement. However, an involuntary confession will not automatically render an entire conviction void. The conviction may still stand if it is supported by independent evidence, such as eyewitness testimony confirming the defendant’s acts. 

Do I Need to Have an Attorney Present During an Interrogation?

In order to avoid being subject to involuntary confessions, it is to your benefit to have an attorney present during any interrogation. You have the right to an attorney under the 5th Amendment during initial Miranda investigations. Also, if charges have been filed, the 6th Amendment guarantees your right to an attorney during subsequent post-charge interrogations. 

Having an attorney present can help ensure that all your statements and confessions are voluntarily made. Your attorney will be able to guide you in responding to interrogations and can assist you if you have any questions regarding the process.

Photo of page author Gabrielle Hollingsworth

, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 04-08-2016 11:34 AM PDT

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