In a move that overturned a 100-year-old rule for how and when a confession can be used in trial, the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that the new standard of proof is now that the confession "is trustworthy or reliable." In a 5-2 decision overturning the conviction of a man charged with sexually abusing his daughter, the Court also overturned the rule known as the "corpus delicti" rule.

The old rule used to require evidence other than a defendant's out of court statement to show that he or she committed the crime. The intent behind this was to protect the accused of false or coerced confessions leading to their convictions. However, in its latest ruling, the Court decided that there are other forms of protection ensuring the accused of their rights such as Miranda Rights. These newer and more substantial rights make the old rule obsolete in the Court's opinion.

Chief Justice Michael Bender said that the case on which the new rule is founded demonstrates quite accurately the underlying problems of the old rule in that it often left those who were unable to testify due to age or mental capacity in a vulnerable position to those who would exploit them. The lack of evidence in those previous circumstances would have resulted in a similar result as this current case that overturned the rule in which the man accused was freed. The new rule cannot be retroactively applied to the freed man.

While prosecutors may see this as a step forward, many will remain wary of the potential consequences of such 'reliable' confessions being used for convictions. How the courts begin to define 'trustworthy' and 'reliable' when reviewing these confessions will go a long way in determining whether or not they are ultimately just in their outcomes.

If you find yourself in a situation where a confession is sought prior to speaking to an attorney, please invoke your right to an attorney. Speak to an attorney prior to giving a statement, as any statement may be used against you in the court of law. A knowledgeable defense attorney will be able to help you navigate the tumultuous waters that may lie ahead.

Source:, "Colorado high court changes rules for confessions, proof of crime not needed," Jessica Fender, Jan. 14, 2013