U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Coerced or Nonvoluntary Confessions

NCJ Number
Behavioral Sciences and the Law Volume: 16 Issue: 4 Dated: Autumn 1998 Pages: 423-440
Hollida Wakefield; Ralph Underwager
Date Published
18 pages
Police may engage in deceptive and coercive interrogations to obtain confessions; when a confession is later retracted, judges and juries must assess the totality of the circumstances surrounding the confession, including the interrogation techniques used and the effects of these techniques on a particular defendant.
Psychological coercion appears to be common in the interrogation of suspects. Further, the structure and nature of law enforcement may result in police misbehavior, and non-voluntary confessions may be attributed to the coercive nature of police interrogation during which deceptive practices may be used. Because a suspect who is vulnerable and confused or who is given false evidence by a coercive interrogator may produce a false confession, the expert testimony of a psychologist may be necessary to help jurors understand the circumstances that lead to non-voluntary confessions. In order for expert testimony to be admitted, the psychologist must be prepared to deal with efforts to preclude such testimony. The gate-keeping function of judges must be understood and responded to with careful, valid, and reliable presentation of the relevant scientific research. Several examples of coerced confessions are provided. 66 references