Does an interrogation that exceeds 6 hours mean that the resulting confession was coerced?

Written By: Reid
Oct 20, 2011
Dr. Richard Leo has espoused the position that interrogations that exceed 6 hours result in coerced confessions. The basis for this statement can be found in an article he co-authored with Steven Drizen in March 2004, entitled "The Problem of False Confessions in the Post-DNA World" (North Carolina Law Review) in which they examined 125 cases that they found in the prior 33 years that they classify as false confession cases. When the length of 44 of these interrogations were reviewed (apparently no time for the length of the interrogation was reported for the remaining 81 cases) they found the following results:

Length # People %
Less than 6 hour 7 16%
6 to 12 hours 15 34%
12 to 24 hours 17 39%
24 to 48 hours 3 7%
48 to 72 hours 1 2%
72 to 96 hours 1 2%
The article goes on to say that "The average length of interrogation was 16.3 hours, and the median length of interrogation was twelve hours."

It is clear that if the median length of these 44 interrogations was 12 hours, the statement that interrogations that exceed 6 hours necessarily result in coerced confessions is not supported by the data.

As in every case, the courts consider the "totality of circumstances" and do not view the length of interrogation as a definitive factor regarding the admissibility of a confession
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