Voluntariness Test

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In the United States, a confession is admissible if a judge deems it to have been made voluntarily.[1]. Confessions which are involuntary may be excluded from evidence unless the defendant opens the door to the admission of the confession.

The exclusion of involuntary evidence is premised on three principals:" First, exclusion of involuntary confessions tends to deter police misconduct. Second, a confession should be freely made by a rational person. Finally, confessions obtained with duress are inherently unreliable.

Voluntariness is determined by a factfinder (judge or jury) by examining and taking into consideration the totality of the circumstnances

The admissibility of incriminating statements made at the time a defendant had his "rational intellect" and/or "free will" compromised by mental disease or incapacity is to be governed by state rules of evidence and not by the Supreme Court's decisions regarding coerced confessions and Miranda waivers. Also, coercive police activity is a necessary predicate to the finding that a confession is not "voluntary" within the meaning of the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. [5]

When determining whether a confession was voluntary, the court should look at the "totality of the circumstances". [6] In certain circumstances, police misconduct may be so egregious that the confession evidence should be excluded without regard for how that conduct the defendant. However, when conduct is less egregious, a court should consider if the conduct actually induced an involuntary confession.

  1. Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278 (1936)