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Study Shows Sleep Deprivation More Likely to Lead False Confessions

In our society, it is well-known that a good night’s sleep is crucial for your emotional, physical, and mental well-being. Sleep allows the body to relax and recharge from the day so that the next day, you are functioning effectively in the world around you. The study of sleep deprivation has revealed significant results that go beyond just feeling tired, grumpy, and irritable.

According to a new study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences based on a study performed by the Michigan State University, sleep deprivation may lead certain individuals to confess to committing a crime that they did not in fact commit.

The Sleep Deprivation-False Confession Study

The Michigan State study requested that 88 undergraduate students participate in computer games in two different sessions, with a week between the sessions. Before the computer sessions, the students would be warned that using the escape key (ESC) would have the effect of erasing the entire database for the researchers. During the first session, the students were able to complete the computer assignments without any prompts, except the warnings involving the escape key. The night after completing the second session, students were split into two groups: one group was allowed to sleep, and the other was kept awake all night with video games, television, food, and other stimuli.

In the morning, the participants were told that that they pressed the escape key during their session and would have to sign a statement to that effect. Fifty percent of the participants who were not allowed to sleep signed the false confession that they had erased the researchers’ data; less than 20 percent of the participants who were able to sleep signed the confession. The keystroke data showed, however, that no one had actually pressed the escape key.

Regularity of False Confessions and Wrongful Convictions

Though the study expresses a mild situation of false confessions and the inclination of those sleep-deprived to fess up to a crime that they did not commit, false confessions in our criminal justice system happen rather regularly. One study espoused by the Innocence Project suggests that about one-fourth of wrongful convictions are due to false confessions. This coupled with the fact that it has been estimated that 17 percent of interrogations occur during midnight to eight in the morning suggests that false confessions due to sleep deprivation have a close connection with wrongful convictions.

Implications of the Study on Police Interrogation Tactics

The study has serious implications on the way in which police question potential suspects about a crime, and the type of rights that these suspects have while in police custody, largely if they have the right to sleep. According to an article published by New Scientist, the U.S., like several other countries, does not have rules that have been established dictating the requirement of sleep before an interrogation. In the United Kingdom, there is a law that dictates that suspects are not allowed to be interviewed if they have not had 8 hours of sleep in the past 24 hours, except in cases of emergency.

Though the probability of a similar sleep requirement to be included in our criminal justice system is unlikely, advocacy groups have been pushing for measures that would protect people from questionable police tactics and include the measure that all police interrogations be videotaped, not just those of suspects who are minors.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

Sleep deprivation is one of the tactics police may use when interrogating a possible suspect. If you believe that you have been manipulated or mistreated as a result of police interrogation misconduct, it is important you speak with an experienced defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik. Police interrogation tactics can lead a criminal defendant with little to no experience in the criminal justice system to confess to being involved in a crime in which you did not participate. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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