A confession is probably the most damaging evidence that can be admitted against a defendant. If a defendant has confessed or made damning admissions, the most likely approaches become a guilty plea or cooperation against a more culpable individual. To forestall those approaches, if the facts permit, a criminal defense attorney will move to suppress the confession or incriminating statements. Violations of the following rights may result in suppression:
- The Fourth Amendment prohibition against detaining or arresting you.
- The Fifth Amendment’s privilege against self-incrimination.
- The Miranda rule and the Fifth Amendment right to counsel it creates.
- The Sixth Amendment right to counsel.
- State right to counsel rules and ethical rules governing attorneys’ conduct.
- The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment bar to the use of involuntary confessions.
- State rules deeming involuntary confessions unreliable and inadmissible.
Working with a confession
Even if a defendant has confessed, a criminal defense attorney should investigate and prepare a defense. Especially when the defendant is immature, infirm, or mentally impaired, the police might extract a confession where there was no guilt. DNA exonerations have exposed the phenomenon of false confessions. Further, some admissions may contain the seeds of a defense:
- When accused of a rape, a defendant may have admitted the intercourse, but insisted it was consensual.
- The drug courier may have admitted carrying the package, but asserted that he thought its contents were innocent.
- The accused fraudster may have explained why he believed his representations were not fraudulent, but true.