False Confessions in Philadelphia Criminal Cases


Average citizens of Philadelphia who sit on juries in criminal cases often have a hard time believing that someone accused of a crime could give a false confession, or confess to a crime they didn’t commit. However, this is something every criminal defense lawyer knows to be true – innocent people can and do confess to a crime they didn’t commit. Convincing a jury that a person accused of a crime gave a false confessed is an uphill battle.

Related: False Confessions in Pennsylvania Criminal Cases


So how do the police obtain these kinds of confessions? It’s a question that makes sense to those of us who defend people accused of crimes, and the answer is very complex. Police officers are trained in interrogation tactics. There are courses on how to get confessions.

Police interrogation involves a psychological process. First, interrogating officers try to convince the suspect that they have been caught red-handed and resisting or denial will only hurt their case. This often involves puffing, i.e., an officer claims that there is clear evidence of the suspect’s guilt.

In the second part of the process, officers try to convince the suspect that confessing is in their best interest and may result in leniency. For example, an officer may tell a suspect that an eyewitness has given a description and will identify them in a line-up and therefore they should confess now in order to get leniency.


In the vast majority of false confession cases, the accused individuals share common traits:

  • mental/emotional health issues,
  • learning disabilities, and
  • lower than average IQ or low education (dropped out of high school).

These types of factors affect an individual who is being subjected to intense interrogation tactics differently than a normal, average individual. For instance, someone with anxiety or depression will be less likely to withstand intense interrogation. Also, when an individual possesses more than one of these traits, the likelihood of a false confession is much higher.

In addition, many citizens of Philadelphia who are being investigated for crimes often have prior criminal records and may be on probation or parole, and this can contribute to a false confession. For example, a resident of Philadelphia who is already on probation and is accused of possessing drugs or selling drugs may confess to a crime in hopes of leniency. They are probably worried about having their probation revoked, so they may confess in hopes of getting the case dropped or otherwise being charged with a lesser crime. However, what the individual in this situation doesn’t know is that the confession will be used in both the probation case and the new criminal case.

Most citizens have limited contact with police and are entirely unable to appreciate what it is like to be arrested, processed and questioned or interrogated. Many citizens of Philadelphia, especially people who have prior criminal records, are especially vulnerable to police interrogation tactics.

More: David S. Nenner Secures 2 Acquittals in 2 Philly Attempted Murder Cases


If you or a loved one was charged with a crime in Philadelphia, please call our office for a free case review. (215) 515-0042

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