Confessions and the Constitution: The Remedy for Violating Constitutional Safeguards

By Benoit, Carl A. | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, April 2010 | Go to article overview

Confessions and the Constitution: The Remedy for Violating Constitutional Safeguards


Benoit, Carl A., The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin


Law enforcement officers investigating criminal activity within the United States have increasing amounts of technology to assist them in identifying those responsible for criminal conduct. Advances in DNA collection and testing, automated fingerprint identification, and a multitude of forensic techniques are only a few examples of the scientific tools available to the modern criminal investigator. (1) However, despite all of the physical evidence collected in a particular case and all of the scientific analysis used to tie an individual to the commission of a crime, one nonscientific technique continues to play an important role in the investigation and prosecution of criminal activity: the confession. Confessions made to law enforcement officers continue to hold significant importance within the criminal justice process. Law enforcement officers seek to obtain confessions from individuals suspected of criminal activity even when the physical, scientific, or other evidence against an individual is over-whelming. Criminal defendants, faced with the possibility that their confessions may be used by the prosecution at trial, seek to keep their confessions out of court through legal challenges. Both parties recognize the continued influence of the words uttered by criminal defendants on a judge or a jury. There is something powerful in the words that describe the particular events, as well as the thoughts, actions, emotions, or motives, that would otherwise remain hidden and undiscovered from any scientific or forensic test. In 1961, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter made the following statement about confessions that still rings true today:

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

  Despite modern advances in the technology of crime detection,
  offenses frequently occur about which things cannot be made to
  speak. And where there cannot be found innocent human witnesses
  to such offenses, nothing remains--if police investigation is not
  to be balked before it has fairly begun--but to seek out possibly
  guilty witnesses and ask them questions, witnesses, that is, who
  are suspected of knowing something about the offense precisely
  because they are suspected of implication in it. (2)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

It is when the police officer "seek[s] out possibly guilty witnesses and ask[s] them questions" (3) that the law surrounding confessions must be considered. Because confessions and interrogations are such a recognized and longstanding tool in law enforcement, articles about all aspects of the topic abound. Less frequently addressed, however, is a discussion of the legal effect of obtaining a confession in violation of constitutional safeguards. Because obtaining a confession can implicate different constitutional rights, answering this question involves identifying the particular constitutional safeguard involved--typically a right found within the Fourth, Fifth, or Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution--and then understanding the remedy that each provision imposes for a violation.

In recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court decided three cases that involved confessions obtained in violation of constitutional safeguards. And, in each of these cases, the Supreme Court has made one thing clear: the Constitution imposes different remedies for different violations. Law enforcement officers must be aware of these issues and can find guidance in these Supreme Court cases involving confessions. Armed with this information, law enforcement officers can properly understand the implications of obtaining confessions in violation of constitutional safeguards.

The Fourth Amendment

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated. ..." (4) Expressly contained within its first sentence, the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures are familiar terms to law enforcement officers. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Confessions and the Constitution: The Remedy for Violating Constitutional Safeguards
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.