Individuals with Disabilities and the Issue of False Confessions

One way to get a confession

False confessions are more common than expected. The most common explanations are that the suspect experiences fear, intimidation, frustration and “just wants to go home.”

Deaf individuals as well as other vulnerable groups are at risk for making false confessions because of their communication differences and disabilities, youth, and personality characteristics.  In one case I worked on the detectives did not use a sign language interpreter with a deaf woman suspect but instead used written communication and lipreading.  The detectives were not aware that the deaf woman had a second grade reading level, could barely write an English grammatical sentence, and was guessing and reading body language to try to determine what the detectives were asking her.

And here’s another

Furthermore, police officers are often trained in using coercive techniques, asking complex questions, repeating questions, making false promises, or threats, or using confusing and ambiguous language to force the false confession. In this article, Individuals with Disabilities and the Issue of False Confessions, published in the Champion, July 2012, p. 34-42, Dr. Vernon and I provide recommendations that can be adopted such as mandatory video recording so that vulnerable populations such as deaf individuals are provided their Constitutional Rights and to ensure there is documentation that the confession is reliable and voluntary.

[Sadly, the link to this article is unavailable, as the Champion has chosen to place it in their protected area. I have included links to their membership page, should you want to join and access it that way. Guest memberships cannot access the protected area. –BitcoDavid]

[***Update – Dr. Andrews was kind enough to e-mail me a PDF of the full article. Here’s the link. – BitcoDavid]

False Confessions


17 thoughts on “Individuals with Disabilities and the Issue of False Confessions

  1. Anyone can end up with a coerced confession. I don’t care how innocent you think you are, the cops are not your friends in this.

    The mantra should be: “I have nothing to say until I have an attorney present.” And then stick to it – “I want a lawyer.”

    Average people do not understand the system, let alone people with limitations. Anyone being investigated by the police need to remember: DO NOT SPEAK TO THE POLICE WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY PRESENT WHO CAN REPRESENT YOUR BEST INTEREST. Give your name, address, etc., but do not talk about anything – anything at all other than basic identifying information.

    They are allowed to lie, threaten, bully, manipulate, etc.,etc. Do not go into a police interrogation without benefit of counsel. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you.


  2. I keep silence to the police if I don’t have a lawyer. The police officers tend to ignore my requests for an interpreter.


    1. Yes. Police departments need more training on providing interpreters for deaf persons. Its the law to provide effective communication.


      1. Yes. I agree with you, Jeanfandrews. I did request the police officers for an interpreter, but they made an excuse that they couldn’t get interpreters. They offered me to communicate in writing with them but they tricked me into confessing by answering their question. I have experienced this before or it happened to me before.

        Is it the law to provide effective communication for writing a notepads?


      2. My psychiatrist said, “People with Attention Deficit Disorder have difficulties answering questions and can occasionally give the wrong answer.” That is true.

        I was not taking medication for Attention Deficit Disorder at the time of my arrest.


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