Why do Innocent People Plead Guilty?

The idea behind our criminal justice system is truly something we as a society should value. The person who committed a crime is found guilty through a jury of their peers. After which that person is punished to rehabilitate them to be later included back in society. The assumption here is that only the truly guilty are justly found so. However, every year someone is exonerated of a crime they did not commit, yet they astonishingly plead guilty to the crime. The natural question is, “why would someone commit to a crime they did not commit?” Although this situation sounds ridiculous, it does happen, and the reasons make more sense than you may think. 

Police interrogations can lead to false confessions.

Popular Netflix documentaries like “Making a Murderer” have brought this phenomenon into the light. Essentially overeager law enforcement officers either break protocol or somehow cause a situation in which an innocent person gives false confessions to a crime they did not commit. 

What can happen when people wrongfully confess?

  1. The person lacks education, has mental limitations, or is relatively naive to the process. Unfortunately, people do not always understand the ramifications for the things they say in front of police officers. Untrue confessions can come around merely due to an overwhelming sense of fear or the person’s inherent nature to want to appeal to authority figures’ demands.  
  2. A compromised sense of judgment due to hunger, stress, or a lack of food or water. Sometimes when detectives are certain they have the right person, lines can be crossed to get a confession. People being interrogated can be isolated in a room for an excessive amount of time without food, bathroom breaks, water, or the ability to talk to someone. Suspects can sometimes lose their constitution and incriminate themselves to get out of that situation to end their suffering.

How the legal system can bring about false guilty pleads.

In other situations, someone has been charged with a crime and plead guilty before their trial begins. The unfortunate reality is that when people do this, they are simply hedging their bets and trying to do a little damage control. Another way of putting it is that people are faced with two choices, and one sounds like a safer route than others. For example, if someone is expected of murder, they can either go to trial and face 40 years in prison if found guilty. The other option is to engage in a plea deal and only serve 11 years with the possibility of parole or time off for good behavior. 

One last take away

Roughly 20 percent of all people that have been later excused for their crimes and released from prison have stated that they provided a false guilty plea. The criminal justice system may sound like it happens in front of a courtroom, but only a small percentage of criminal cases ever make it that far. The system is based on plea bargains; due to financial restraints or the fear of draconian prison sentences, most people choose to a plea deal. If someone is charged with a serious crime, such as felony rape or murder, public defenders may not be the best solution. When the stakes are highest, it is worth your time to pursue every legal avenue you have. We highly suggest you call a criminal defense law firm near you to ask for a case review.  

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