Two weeks ago we talked about issues that can cast doubt on confessions in criminal proceedings. We talked about how a confession may be thrown out if law enforcement officials violated your fundamental rights in the criminal justice system or if the confession was made as part of a privileged communication.

A recent decision by the Colorado Supreme Court took up the issue of "trustworthy" confessions and the role of a confession in criminal proceedings. Moving forward, the use of confessions as evidence by prosecutors could change dramatically.

For more than 100 years, prosecutors have been required to supplement a confession with real evidence that a crime actually occurred. However, with the high court's new decision a trustworthy confession will be enough to support a conviction without additional evidence.

The case that prompted the change involved a man who confessed to his wife, his mother, his pastor and police that he had sexually assaulted a child. He was convicted using the confession as evidence but the ruling was overturned on an appeal because the prosecutors did not offer any additional evidence.

The Colorado Supreme Court did not reinstate his conviction but decided that in future cases with similar circumstances, a confession will be sufficient if prosecutors can prove that the confession is trustworthy and the facts given in the confession are true.

Sometimes people who are accused of a crime they did not commit will confess under pressure from law enforcement or because they believe it will result in a plea deal or lighter penalty. This new rule makes that particularly risky.

It is absolutely essential that people facing criminal charges seek help from a qualified defense attorney. Contact one if you have been accused of a crime in order to ensure that your rights are protected.

Source: CBS Denver, "Colorado High Court Rules on Trustworthy Confessions," Jan. 14, 2013

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