Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of confession


  1. A statement made by a person suspected or charged with a crime, that he (or she) did, in fact, commit that crime.

Definition of confession


    From Latin cōnfessiō ("confession, acknowledgment, creed or avowal of one's faith").



confession (plural confessions)

  1. The open admittance of having done something (especially of something bad).

    Without the real murderer's confession, an innocent person will go to jail.

  2. (Roman Catholicism) the disclosure of one's sins to a priest for absolution. Now termed the sacrament of reconciliation.

    I went to confession and now I feel much better about what I had done.

    * 1597, William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, Act III (First Folio ed.)
    Hauing diſpleaſ'd my Father, to Lawrence Cell, / To make confeſſion, and to be abſolu'd.

Derived terms

  • confessional
  • nonconfession

Related terms

Further reading

In the law of criminal evidence, a confession is a statement by a suspect in crime which is adverse to that person.


This specific form of testimony, involving oneself, is used as a form of proof in judicial matters, this since at least the Inquisition. The value of confessions, however, are discussed, and law generally request cross-checking them with objective facts and others forms of evidence (exhibits, testimonies from witnesses, etc.) in order to evaluate their truth value. Confessions were first developed in the Roman Catholic Church under the Sacrament of Penance, where the confession of a sin is considered to be enough to absolve oneself. This aspect concerning moral guilt has been carried on in various legislative codes, in which a criminal is considered worse if he does not confess to his crimes.


On one hand, confessions obtained under torture have often been considered as not objective enough, since the use of such means may lead to the suspect in confessing anything. On the other hand, even without torture, various cases of avered false confessions demonstrate that, in itself, one man's confession is not a sufficient proof. False memory (including memory biases, etc.) or privileges granted under plea bargaining might lead to such false confessions.

England and Wales

In English law a confession includes:[1]

    any statement wholly or partly adverse to the person who made it, whether made to a person in authority or not and whether made in words or otherwise.

A confession may be admitted in evidence so long as it is relevant to any matter in issue and not excluded under the court's discretion.


  1. a b Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, section 82.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


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