In Texas and other states across the country, police officers use the same techniques for interrogation on both juveniles and adults. However, a new study has revealed that teenagers and children are more likely to give false confessions than adults. Research shows that the younger a juvenile is, the more likely they are, while under pressure, to confess to something they did not do. Among 12- to 15-year-olds accused of a juvenile crime, 69 percent gave false confessions to rapes and homicides.
Juveniles are generally more vulnerable to intimidation and the power of suggestion than adults. In addition, they are prone to choosing a short-term gain, such as ending an interrogation, over a long-term consequence, such as facing a jail sentence for a false confession. For this reason, it makes sense for police officers to use different interrogation techniques with children and teenagers than with adults.
One psychology graduate student surveyed 178 law enforcement officers regarding the training they receive and their interrogation techniques. He discovered that almost all of the surveyed officers reported using the same interrogation techniques for adults and minors. Furthermore, he found that only around 20 percent of officers receive any instruction regarding adolescent development.
American Psychologist published an article in 2006 that cited a review of exonerations that took place between 1989 and 2004. The review discovered that the rate of adult exonerations involving false confessions was 13 percent, compared to 42 percent among juvenile exonerations.
One way for a defendant to avoid giving a false confession is to invoke his or her right to legal representation. A criminal defense lawyer may monitor an interrogation and instruct the defendant regarding which questions to answer and how to best answer them.
Source: Pacific Standard, “How Can We Prevent False Confessions From Kids and Teenagers?“, Lauren Kirchner, June 17, 2014