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The Voluntary Confession Is Critical

Using threats or promises—whether implicitly or explicitly—in an investigative interview is a questionable practice. Not only does the use of threats or promises to a subject diminish an investigator’s professionalism, but an admission or confession obtained through one of these tactics may be considered untrustworthy or unreliable in criminal or civil proceedings. A trustworthy, voluntary confession is critical when it comes to the search for truth in an investigation.

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The Interviewing column in the May—June 2017 issue of LP Magazine, written by David E. Zulawski, CFI, CFE, and Shane G. Sturman, CFI, CPP, examines the standards used by the court to determine whether a confession ought to be excluded from evidence in a case. The authors list a number of examples of threats and promises that may compromise an otherwise voluntary confession. From the column:

The threat or promise could be explicit, where the investigator clearly states something, or implicit, where the threat or promise is merely hinted. Confessions can also be judged involuntary if they are obtained as a result of explicit threats or promises made to the person. Some examples include:

  • Tell the truth, and you can keep your job.
  • Get this cleared up, and we won’t prosecute.
  • Get this cleared up, or we will turn this over to the police.
  • Don’t make us take this to the authorities.
  • We’d like to handle this within the company.
  • If you don’t get this cleared up, we will take your kids from you.
  • We’d hate to arrest your wife too.

Check out “Implicit or Explicit—Why Do It at All?” to see the complete list of common threats and promises that can endanger a voluntary confession or case resolution. You can also visit the Table of Contents for the May–June 2017 issue or register for a free subscription to the magazine.

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