What Is An Admission Of Guilt?

Updated January 25, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

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 is accurate, but there have been cases where admissions of guilt were found to be coerced or otherwise manipulated for the sake of closing a case or making someone appear guilty.

Stress In The Legal Process

When you—or someone close to you—are accused of a crime—it can be difficult to process all of your emotions. It can even be hard to know what your emotions are, as they change with each unfolding event. Here we'll talk about the admission of guilt and what it can or cannot mean. We'll also address how you can get help processing your emotions if necessary.

Have You Been Holding Onto A Guilty Confession?

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. Various factors contribute to false confessions.

Individuals with low intelligence, people-pleasing tendencies, or mental health disorders are more likely to make false confessions. The higher likelihood is attributed to these individuals' weaker resistance to authority, especially in stressful situations. Moreover, some of these individuals may not comprehend the gravity of the charges against them and the subsequent consequences of admitting to the crime.

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

False admissions of guilt are dangerous and problematic. Not only can they put an innocent individual behind bars, but coerced admissions of guilt may also allow the real culprit to get away and continue breaking the law. Specialists have warned against the adverse effects of extreme interrogation techniques. As frustrating as it can be for law enforcement officials who genuinely believe they have the culprit when a confession is not forthcoming, false confessions only make matters worse.

The Importance Of Miranda Rights

In a legal sense, admissions of guilt are essentially regarded as confessions to the applicable crime. Thus, when a person confesses, they face the consequences of the crime. However, to hold up in a court of law, admissions of guilt must be made under the proper circumstances. Individuals are permitted to provide admissions of guilt to law enforcement officers or a court.

However, there is one critical factor that can change everything: the reading of the Miranda Rights. Law enforcement officers who neglect to read Miranda Rights to arrestees cannot present admissions of guilt as evidence in court. By law, each person has the right to be read the Miranda Rights at the time of their arrest.

Virtually everyone has heard of the Miranda Rights, which include the right to be silent, the right to an attorney, and so forth. During the reading of these rights, law enforcement officers also explain that "anything you say can and will be read in a court of law." The Miranda Rights exist so that people are made aware of their legal rights as they are being taken into custody.

Admission Of Guilt After The Fact

When we think of an admission of guilt, we usually imagine the confession happening before the legal proceedings. In many cases, confessions that occur after the proceedings of the case are 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.

To this day, there are many debates regarding double jeopardy and whether 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 conclusive evidence could emerge later in the process, proving the guilt of a previously absolved person. Conversely, people who support double jeopardy state that its abolishment could lead to coercion of witness accounts and otherwise provide leeway for innocent people to be found guilty of crimes they did not commit.

Inadvertent Admissions Of Guilt

Confessions to crimes can manifest in various forms. For example, the role of technology in today's world has provided an avenue for people who admit to crimes on social media to face legal consequences, explains CNN.

Have You Been Holding Onto A Guilty Confession?

Surprisingly, many people don't realize that the posts they make on social media can be legally interpreted as admissions of guilt. In most cases, this habit is harmless at best and annoying at worst. However, in cases where laws have been broken, 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.

In addition, posting information online and later erasing it is unlikely to save people from legal consequences. This is because law enforcement has the power to subpoena social media outlets to turn over erased posts and content. The bottom line: once something is out there, it's out there. The internet is forever.

Young people are most likely to provide admissions of guilt via social media. This is because younger people may be less aware of the consequences of online posts than their older counterparts.

Moving Forward

Going through the legal process, or being close to someone going through the process, can be stressful. You are likely to feel anxiety as you wait for the verdict. Talking with a therapist can help you process these emotions in a healthy, productive way. 

In 2020, more and more people are turning online in search of a convenient way to speak with a trusted therapist without having to leave the comforts of home. Recent studies show that electronically delivered cognitive behavioral therapy reduced depression and anxiety symptom severity more effectively than face-to-face therapy. The analysis considered 17 randomized controlled study trials, “evaluating the clinical effectiveness of eCBT compared to face-to-face and considered a wide range of outcomes including severity of symptoms, adverse outcomes, clinically relevant outcomes, global functionality, participant satisfaction, quality of life, and affordability.”

BetterHelp can connect you with thousands of licensed professional therapists, from the comfort of your home. Online counseling means that you can get the personal attention you need in an affordable professional setting. 

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A Final Word

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 of a crime. The best course of action is, of course, to abstain from committing crimes in the first place. No matter what you're experiencing, however, with the right tools and a little help, you can move forward. Take the first step today.

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