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Confessions of the Accused

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A confession must be made knowingly, voluntarily and of a suspect's own free will to be valid.

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Constitutional Rights Lawyer, Harrisburg, PA

During custodial interrogation or an arrest, an accused has a right to remain silent unless he or she chooses to speak in the unfettered exercise of his or her own will.  The waiver of this right must be both knowing and voluntary.

What's meant by a "knowing waiver?"

A knowing waiver requires that the accused know his or her rights before choosing to waive them.  The accused must have been apprised of his or her Miranda rights and understood them before they can waive them.   

What's meant by "voluntary?"

Although there is no single test for determining the voluntariness of a confession, it must be established that the decision to speak was the product of a free and unconstrained choice of its maker.  All of the attending facts and circumstances must be evaluated to determine if the confession was voluntarily made.  Although there is no single litmus-paper test to determining the voluntariness of a confession, it must be established that the decision to speak was a product of a free and unconstrained choice of its maker. The courts will examine the duration and methods of interrogation, the length of delay between arrest and arraignment, the conditions of detainment, the attitudes of the police toward the defendant, the defendant's physical and psychological state, and all other conditions present which may serve to drain one's power of resistance to suggestion or to undermine one's self-determination.

The question of the voluntariness of a confession is not whether a defendant would have confessed without interrogation, but whether the interrogation was so manipulative or coercive that it deprived the defendant of his or her ability to make a free and unconstrained decision to confess.

What's the remedy if the confession was made in violation of my rights?

The statement made to the police may be suppressed or kept from evidence during the Commonwealth's case in chief.  This means they cannot use the statement or anything derived from it, such as the location of a weapon.  But, it does not necessarily mean that the charges get dismissed.

If you've been arrested or charged with a crime and there's been a statement given to the police by you, you need to contact an experienced criminal attorney as soon as possible.  You may contact Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free or email us today.

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