What does a guilty plea actually mean to a teenager?

Most people in Eagan recognize that a sexual assault charge is incredibly serious and a conviction would come with a long prison sentence and potentially a lifetime on the Minnesota Sex Offender Registry. With this in mind, it may seem ridiculous to think that anyone would enter a guilty plea on a charge of rape unless he or she actually raped someone. Yet 38 percent of juveniles who are convicted and later exonerated were found to enter false confessions. So when a teenager pleads guilty to any crime, what does he or she actually mean?

Certainly, some teenagers plead guilty to crimes because they committed them and would like to confess, but it seems many others enter false confessions for a variety of reasons.

Teens are much more likely than adults to defer to figures of authority, which means teens may be telling police officers what they believe officers want to hear. It is frightening for anyone to be interrogated as a suspect, but for teenagers, they may be ready to confess to things they did not do because they believe it will provide some short-term relief. Maybe the interrogation will stop, maybe the teen will be able to go home; regardless, the long-term consequences of a guilty plea will haunt teens for a long time to come.

Take the example of a Florida man who spent nearly 26 years in prison after he pled guilty to a rape and murder he was accused of committing when he was 15 years old. Whether it was his age, his IQ of 67 or a combination of the two, he pled guilty to a crime that he didn’t commit. It took DNA evidence and almost 26 years to clear his name.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “False Confessions Dog Teens,” Zusha Elinson, Sept. 8. 2013

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

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Stay calm and compose after getting accused of a crime but not charged in Minneapolis, MN. Do not discuss the facts of your case with anyone, including your relatives and family members. Hire a criminal defense attorney with a demonstrated record of winning cases like yours. Your attorney will discuss your rights, guide you on how to cooperate with law enforcement within the legal boundaries, and build a solid defense strategy to fight the charges you could face in the future.
Expungement and sealing of records in Minnesota affect how your criminal history appears to government agencies and the public. The main difference between the two legal actions is that expungement permanently removes past arrests, criminal charges, or convictions from private and public databases, while sealing hides the criminal record from the public. Courts, government entities, and law enforcement agencies can access sealed criminal records.