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J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2009;37(3):344-8.

Commentary: ethics-related implications and neurobiological correlates of false confessions in juveniles.

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David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, 1823 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025, USA.


Forensic psychiatrists typically have no role in the process of obtaining confessions. They may believe, as do others, that a confession removes any doubt about guilt, but false confessions are not rare. Like the police, forensic psychiatrists can inadvertently elicit or solidify a false confession through the evaluation process by presuming guilt and forgetting that they are ethically obligated to strive for objectivity. Adolescents are at high risk of making false confessions because of their immaturity and vulnerability, extrinsic factors (such as interrogation techniques), and the dynamic interplay between them. Adolescent immaturity can have a direct bearing on a juvenile's appreciation of his Miranda rights and his vulnerability to making a confession (or a false confession) when exposed to coercive interrogation techniques designed for adults. Adolescents need special protection from such interrogation techniques. Forensic psychiatrists have an obligation to be alert to the potential for false confessions and to avoid compounding the problem by presuming guilt.

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