|The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution provides that no state shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Due process of law requires that a person has notice, an opportunity to be heard, and a right to make an informed choice. An informed choice can only be made with regard to a confession if the confession is voluntary.
A confession must be voluntary in order to be admitted into evidence in a criminal proceeding. A voluntary confession is one that is given freely and as a result of an independent and informed choice. The person making the confession must possess the ability to make an informed choice and must not be pressured into giving the confession.
A confession is involuntary if it is coerced. Coercion means that the confession was obtained by violence, threats, direct or implied promises, or by improper influence. Coercion can also mean that the confession was obtained by deceit or trickery. Although all the circumstances are considered in determining whether a confession is voluntary, interrogation methods that involve physical force and beatings are clearly offensive and render the confession inadmissible at a trial.
Factors for determining the voluntariness of a confession include the length of a person's detention prior to the confession, the length of the interrogation process, the denial of access to family and friends, whether the person was permitted to call an attorney, the application of any physical force, the person's individual characteristics, and the overall conduct of the police. The overall conduct of the police is a significant factor because it is an overreaching by the police that renders a confessional involuntary.
The voluntariness of a confession also depends upon the individual characteristics of a person. These characteristics include the person's age, mental condition, maturity, and education. However, the person's mental condition does not necessarily render the confession involuntary. It is merely a factor to be considered in determining whether the person freely and voluntarily chose to make the confession. Also, the fact that the person might have been intoxicated does not always render a confession involuntary.
A confession may be considered involuntary if the police have promised leniency to a person or have threatened the person with additional prosecution. Threats or promises by the police need not only affect the person. They may also affect the person's family. The issue is whether the promises of leniency caused the person to believe that he or she would receive a benefit from the confession and whether he or she was induced to make a confession that was untruthful.
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