Pub. date: 2002 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412950664 | Print ISBN: 9780761922582 | Online ISBN: 9781412950664| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Kenneth C. Haas
A confession is an admission of guilt. People confess to all kinds of human failings and frailties, real and imagined, to friends, family, strangers, pastors, therapists, reporters, bartenders, talk show hosts, and anyone else who will listen to them. There is some disagreement, however, as to how to define the term confession in the context of contemporary American criminal justice. Some commentators broadly define the term to include admissions of criminal behavior to private parties, admissions to law enforcement officials not of guilt but of other facts that may link a suspect to a crime, and exculpatory statements (e.g., a self-defense explanation) as well as guilty conduct (e.g., an attempt to mislead or flee from the police). It is preferable, however, to distinguish a confession from other kinds of self-incriminating actions. It should be noted that many confessions are “spontaneous”—made before the onset of formal proceedings—such as the one that ...