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Study find false confessions can result from sleep deprivation

If you have been arrested by the police, or if you are merely part of an investigation, the police are likely to interrogate you. They may tell you that they would like you to come down to the police station and talk, or they may bring you into custody and engage in a more formal interrogation, complete with Miranda warnings.

Depending on the circumstances, they may hold you in that interrogation room for a long period. This is not accidental. Many officers, once they suspect you are guilty, believe that they can "break you" and will prolong the interrogation until you confess.

A recent study suggests that sleep deprivation is one factor in a false confession. In many cases of wrongful convictions, the accused confesses to a crime they did not commit. People unfamiliar with the criminal justice system and police interrogation often express their skepticism towards recantations, believing no one who is innocent would ever confess to a crime they did not, in fact, commit.

This study indicates a link between the likelihood of a false confession and sleep deprivation. Those who suffered sleep deprivation were 4.5 times more likely to sign a false confession than those who had received a full night's sleep.

This is not a trivial problem in the criminal justice system. Even when told a confession is false or coerced, a jury is more likely to convict.

These confessions poison the prosecution of persons accused of crimes making it more likely there will be a miscarriage of justice. It also distracts the police from fully investigating a crime and allows guilty persons to escape prosecution and commit additional crimes.

And this is why all police interrogations should be recorded on video and there should be strict controls on how long these interrogations may last.

Source: csmonitor.com, "Sleep deprivation contributes to false confessions, study confirms," Molly Jackson, February 10, 2015

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