Can a book I am writing which tells about my crimes get me into trouble?

Get Legal Help Today

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Full Bio →

Written by

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

Anything you write in a book is a confession. If you include any crimes you have not already been charged with and tried for, you could be charged with the new crime(s) to which you effectively confessed in your book.

An important concept in American criminal law is what is known as “double jeopardy.” This means that if you have already been tried for an offense and either acquitted (found “innocent”) or convicted, you cannot be tried for it again. So, say you were tried for murder, but there was not enough evidence and you were acquitted. From a criminal law perspective, you could safely write about the murder and even confess to it but could not be charged and tried again for it. The authorities only get one chance at you, even if more evidence (such as a confession) appears later.

But that ONLY applies to specific crimes you were tried for, where the trial went to completion (e.g., it was not a mistrial or a voluntary dismissal by the prosecutor) and the court either acquitted or convicted you. Any other crimes–even other crimes occurring at the same time as the one(s) you were already tried for–are fair game. The authorities can charge and try you for those.

And worse: anything you write in your book about your crimes is a confession. As the saying goes, it can and will be used against you. So if you confess in your book to any crimes you were not already tried for, you can be tried for those new crimes and you will almost certainly (because of the confession) be convicted.

You could very easily disclose new or additional crimes. For example. Let’s say that you were tried for murder and acquitted. Let’s suppose that murder was the only charge in that trial. If in your book, you wrote about how you used a gun to commit the murder, how you took the victim’s wallet to make it look like a mugging gone bad, and how you lied to the police officers investigating the matter, you just confessed to possession of a weapon, theft, and perjury, and could be charged with all three.

Also, there is another legal system besides the criminal justice system: the civil court system, where lawsuits for monetary compensation are brought. Double jeopardy does not apply to the civil system, and because the civil system is separate from the criminal system, it is not bound by the outcome in the criminal justice system (just like the criminal justice system is not bound by the outcome of any lawsuit in the civil system). If you reveal information about your crimes in your book, your victims (or their families) can use that information to sue you–possibly for a great deal of money.

In summary: writing about your crimes can be a very risky proposition.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption