If you have confessed to a crime while in police custody and now it is time to go to court, you may believe you have no further recourse but to plead guilty.
You must understand that this is not the case. If you have confessed, you still have a right to plead not guilty and fight the charges against you.
The burden of proof
A confession alone does not determine your guilt. That is what the trial is for. It is the prosecutor’s responsibility to prove that you are guilty of the charge.
In a criminal trial, the prosecution must meet a high standard of evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. While a confession might serve as strong evidence of your guilt, the circumstances of your confession may cast doubt on its validity or even render it inadmissible.
Validity of a confession
Not all confessions are admissible. Even when they are, how much weight they carry depends on the circumstances.
There is no recording
Virginia law requires that law enforcement make an audio or audiovisual recording of your interrogation. The absence of a recording does not make your statement inadmissible, but it can weaken the prosecution’s case.
Authorities misinterpreted your statement
Sometimes, authorities may interpret a statement you make as a confession, even if that is not how you intended it. If the prosecution is misrepresenting your words, you may be able to dispute the validity of your alleged confession.
The confession was not voluntary
If authorities used coercion, intimidation or deception to obtain your confession, it might be inadmissible.
Confessing to a crime does not mean you must plead guilty. When you are facing criminal charges, it is important to know your rights, which include the right to a fair trial.