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That young person's confession may not be reliable

When someone confesses to a crime, it is often seen as a slam dunk for prosecutors. If the individual confessed, it means he or she did the crime, right? Well, it is not always that straightforward. If it is a teenager, chances are the confession is more a product of stress, confusion or fear than it is an actual admission of guilt. If a teenager or college student is charged with a crime in Mercer County, it is very possible that he or she will confess to a crime he or she did not commit.

According to a study on juvenile confessions, the evidence indicates that teenagers don't really understand their Miranda rights. Instead of using their right to remain silent or the right to an attorney, 90 percent of teenagers waived both rights. Moreover, further research has shown that teens and children under 16 don't even understand the words used in the Miranda warnings. Most 16- and 17-year-olds don't realize the warnings are there to protect them.

It is no wonder, then, that so many teenagers and young people confess when charged with a crime, even if they are to crimes they never committed. If they can quickly be convinced to waive their Miranda rights, it would not be too difficult to pressure them into saying something or admitting to something that would implicate them.

While a confession can certainly be a strong tool for prosecutors, it by no means makes it an open-and-shut case. If a teenager's lawyer can call into question the validity of the confession, it can be thrown out and the teenager will have the fair trial that he or she deserves.

Source: Pacific Standard, "How Can We Prevent False Confessions From Kids and Teenagers?" Lauren Kirchner, June 17, 2014

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