Exclusion of Confessions
Can a confession I provided to law enforcement be excluded from a trial against me? Hi, I’m Oklahoma City Attorney Aaron Easton, and that’s the question we have for us today. And the short answer, like a lot of things in law, is it really depends. And for this one, we’re going to be looking at your due process right under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
And way back in 1936, the U.S. Supreme Court gave a ruling that said, if a confession is determined to be involuntary, that confession cannot be used against you at trial, nor can the fruits of that confession. I’ll explain a little bit more what that means in a minute. But I’m going to read directly here from the Supreme Court decision.
Factors for Determining Voluntariness of a Confession
There are two factors that go into whether or not a confession will be deemed to be involuntary. And those are, one, if the police obtain the confession by subjecting the suspect to coercive conduct. And two, if that conduct was sufficient to overcome the will of the suspect, then that confession will be determined to be involuntary and can’t be used against you in a court of law.
So what does that mean exactly? What is a coercive confession that overcomes the will of a suspect? Well, the court looks at or uses what’s called the totality of the circumstances test. And it’s that’s really what it sounds like. It’s they look at all the circumstances involved to determine if that confession was voluntary or involuntary. And some of the factors they’ll look at is the age of the suspect, the education level, the mental and physical condition of the suspect. And they will really look at the setting where the confession took place. Where was it? What was the duration of the interrogation? What was the intensity of the interrogation? Were you mistreated or malnourished while you’re being interrogated? Those will all factor in to whether or not the court determines that the confession you gave was, again, voluntary or involuntary.
Exclusion of Fruits of the Crime
An important point here is that fruits of the crime that I talked about. If your confession is determined to be involuntary, law enforcement or the state can’t use the fruits of that crime against you in trial either. And the fruits of a crime mean the tool that was used in a crime, a weapon or the evidence of a crime or the fruit of the crime itself, like stolen property, something like that. That also cannot be used against you in a trial if your confession is determined to be involuntary. And that does differ a little bit from Miranda.
If you provided a voluntary confession but just weren’t Mirandized, the state can still use those fruits against you, even though they can’t use the confession, but they can still use the fruits against you. If, however, your confession is determined to be involuntary, that cannot be used against you at trial.
Why You Should Consult an Attorney
So if you think you have been in a position in which you provided a statement, confession, an admission to law enforcement that you don’t feel was voluntary, you’re certainly going to want to talk to an attorney privately and confidentially about the facts and circumstances of your case. Keeping out a confession and/or fruits of a crime could mean the difference between being convicted and found not guilty of a crime.
If you would like to speak to an attorney with my firm for a free consultation, you can do so. You can find us at postconviction.lawyer or get us on the phone at (918) 932-2833.