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Supreme Court Interpretation of Confession in Criminal Judgments

To encourage defendants to confess and turn over a new leaf, promote judicial economy, and conserve judicial resources, special laws under Taiwan's criminal justice system offer reduced penalties to offenders who choose to confess. Such legal provisions include Paragraph 2, Article 17 of the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act (reading, "Offenders of the crimes set forth in Article 4 to Article 8, who confess during the investigation and the trial, shall receive reduced penalties"), the front part of Paragraph 2, Article 8 of the Anti-Corruption Act (reading, "If the principal offender against Articles 4-6 has confessed to the crime during the investigation and disgorged all the unlawful gains, the sentence shall be commuted."), and the front part of Paragraph 5, Article 171 of the Securities and Exchange Act (reading, "A person who commits an offense under Paragraphs 1 to 3 shall have his/her penalty reduced if he/she confesses during the prosecutorial investigation, and voluntarily disgorges any and all criminal proceeds.").

Taiwanese laws do not define the term confession. Where a defendant admits to certain criminal facts but not the charges the prosecution has brought against him/her, can such admission be considered a confession? The Supreme Court has shed some light on this quandary in several criminal judgments. A Supreme Court Criminal Judgment in 2013 (No. 102-Tai-Shang-4999) states, "A criminal defendant's confession is a statement the defendant makes during an investigation or hearing before a civil servant with the authority to investigate or hear committed offenses to admit the facts regarding his/her conduct that constitute the crime. Any assertions or arguments by the defendant for challenging any legal evaluation of the facts regarding his/her conduct that constitute the crime, or for excusing his/her liability or justifying causes of his/her offense, should all be deemed an exercise of the defendant's right to defend and should still be considered confessions. Confession, which emphasizes the affirmation of occurred criminal facts, and legal evaluation of such facts are two different matters."
Supreme Court Criminal Judgment No. 103-Tai-Shang-127 states, "A defendant's confession is a statement by the defendant to affirm all or some of the facts regarding his/her criminal acts. How laws should be applied to the violator's acts is a legal evaluation to be made by the court by virtue of its authority on the basis of the facts found by it, regardless of whether the defendant admits to the charges brought. Hence, confession is not a guilty plea to be legally evaluated in plea bargaining." Supreme Court Criminal Judgment No. 103-Tai-Shang-774 espouses similar views, determining that a confession by a defendant or a criminal suspect is made to admit all or a substantial part of facts regarding his/her criminal acts.
Hence, a defendant's admission to the facts regarding a crime which he/she is suspected of committing constitutes his/her confession. When a defendant's confession regarding a crime meets the statutory requirements for reduction of the punishment for such a crime, the court should reduce the punishment to be imposed on the defendant, or hand down a lenient sentence on the basis of his/her cooperative attitude after the commission of the crime, i.e., making the confession. Even if the defendant or his/her advocate contends that the legal evaluation of the alleged criminal facts should not be used as the basis of conviction, it should have no bearing on the effect of the defendant's confession.