What Is An Admission Of Guilt?

By Nadia Khan

Updated December 17, 2018

Reviewer Avia James

An admission of guilt is legally defined as "a statement by someone accused of a crime that he/she committed the offense." In many cases, the statement above is true, but there have also been many cases where admissions of guilt have later been found to be coerced or otherwise manipulated for the sake of closing a case, making someone appear guilty, etc. In other situations, people have lied about committing a crime for the sake of protecting the true culprit, or, at the very least, the individual who is believed to be the true culprit.

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An Overview Of False Confessions

In a perfect world, admissions of guilt would be sound, solid, and foolproof. Suffice it to say; the world is far from perfect. Individuals who admit to being guilty of crimes are not always telling the truth. Psychology Today delves into the various factors which engender (or at the very least, contribute to) false confessions. The renowned mental health publication moreover discusses the individuals who are likelier or most vulnerable to providing untrue admissions of guilt.

First and foremost, individuals who suffer from low intelligence levels, people-pleasing tendencies, or mental health problems are more likely to make false confessions. The higher likelihood is attributed to the individuals' more fragile mental state and weaker resilience to power through stressful situations and circumstances. Moreover, these people may genuinely fail to comprehend the gravity of the charges against them and subsequent consequences of committing to crime, regardless of the truthfulness of their admission of guilt.

When law enforcement believes that a suspect committed a crime, they will often employ certain strategies as a means to garner a confession. This could include suggesting that the suspect was antagonized or otherwise made an innocent mistake. Authorities may moreover suggest that the suspect falsely recalls events or that existing evidence contradicts their current account. Some of the most intense legal interrogations can take place for longer than 24 hours. Virtually everyone has a point where they just can't take anymore.

False admissions of guilt are incredibly dangerous and problematic. Not only do they put an innocent individual behind bars, but coerced admissions of guilt also allow the real culprit to get away and continue breaking the law, thus victimizing other people who could have been saved if not for the false confession. Many specialists have warned against the adverse impacts of brutal or extreme interrogation techniques. As frustrating as situations can be for law enforcement officials who genuinely believe they have the culprit, false confessions only make matters worse.

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The Paramountcy Of Miranda Rights

In a legal sense, admissions of guilt are essentially regarded as confessions to the applicable crime. When one confesses, they are then liable to facing the subsequent consequences of the crime. However, to hold up in a court of law, admissions of guilt must be made in the proper circumstances. As explained by Justipedia, individuals are permitted to provide admissions of guilt to law enforcement officers or a court.

However, there is one critical, key factor which can change everything, and in essence, make or break a case; that factor is the reading of one's Miranda Rights. Law enforcement officers who neglect to read Miranda Rights to persons who are arrested will not be able to present admissions of guilt as evidence in court. By law, each has the right to be read their Miranda Rights during the time of their arrests.

The Miranda Rights exist so that people are made aware of their legal rights since they are being taken into custody. Virtually everyone has heard of Miranda Rights; they include the right to be silent, the right to an attorney, etc. During the reading of these rights, law enforcement officers also tell affirm that "anything you say can and will be read in a court of law." It is very important for each person to be read their Miranda Rights in the event of an arrest.

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Admission Of Guilt After The Fact

When most people think of admissions of guilt, they usually imagine the confession happening before the subsequent further proceedings of the legal trial. In many cases, confessions which occur after the proceedings of the case are essentially useless. This is due to a law referred to as double jeopardy, explains NBC News. Double jeopardy mandates that an individual cannot be tried more than one time for the alleged commission of a crime. This means that even if the person is legally found innocent and then later admits, or even brags about their breach of the law, there is not much that can be done about it.

Even to this day, there are many debates regarding double jeopardy and whether or not this doctrine should be maintained or abolished. As seen on Debate, critics of double jeopardy have called the law "outdated," stating that times have changed and new evidence could emerge, thus indicating or proving the guilt of a previously absolved person. Conversely, people who support the double jeopardy law state that its abolishment could lead to coercion of witness accounts and otherwise provide leeway for innocent people to be found guilty of crimes which they did not commit.

Inadvertent Admissions Of Guilt

Contrary to (prior) popular belief, confessions to crimes can manifest in various forms. This has become even more true, especially in a day and age where technology is so prevalent and heavily ingrained in the lives of everyday people. The role of technology in today's world has provided an avenue for people to admit to crimes on social media and face subsequent legal consequences, explains CNN.

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Surprisingly, many people don't realize that the posts they make on social media can be legally interpreted as admissions of guilt and even lead to arrests. This lack of awareness can be largely attributed to the fact that sharing virtually every detail of one's personal life has simply become part of the social media culture. In most cases, this is harmless at best and annoying at worst. However, in cases where laws are broken, sometimes finding the culprit can be as simple as scrolling through his or her social media pages. Online posts may seem like no big deal, but they can have real-life consequences under the right circumstances.

It's also worth noting that posting information online and later deleting it is unlikely to say people from the potential, forthcoming legal consequences. This is because law enforcement has the power to subpoena social media outlets to turn over deleted posts and content. The bottom line is this: once something is out there, it's out there. The internet is forever. Even after pressing the delete button, the posts may not be visible to the general public, but if someone with the right connections wants to dig something up, they will.

It goes without saying that of various age demographics, young people are most likely to prove admissions of guilt via social media. This likelihood is largely because younger people may less aware of the consequences of online posts, unlike their older counterparts. Moreover, younger people also may not know that certain people can still access deleted posts. This is not to say that all young people are stupid or unaware; however, it does mean that the percentage of unaware younger individuals is higher than older people who have lived for more years, thus having more life experience under their belts.

A Final Word

As explained in the preceding text, admissions of guilt are often more complex and layered than they may appear to be on the surface. Some are true; others are false or coerced. Some admissions of guilt occur during the investigation of the crime; other confessions come years or decades later. The reading of one's Miranda Rights can greatly affect the admissibility of an admission of guilt.

Moreover, criminal confessions made via social media can be found, unearthed, and used against the person who posted, regardless of whether or not they delete the content or take other perceived precautions such as placing their pages on private or even deleting their accounts altogether. Once something is put out into the universe, it can never truly be rescinded.

Despite the complexities and intricacies regarding admissions of guilt, the best course of action is always for people to abstain from committing crimes in the first place. Each person has their situation and issues, but breaking the law can have serious and sometimes lifelong consequences. Moreover, admissions of guilt are not always needed to formally charge and convict an individual with the commission of a crime.

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