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Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform: Interrogations and Confessions

Interrogations and Confessions: 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 


  • California — Law Requires Electronic Recording of Custodial Interrogations of Youth Accused of Murder: Citing the dangers and injustice of false confessions, California passed a law requiring the electronic recording of the entire custodial interrogation of a youth under age 18 who is suspected of committing a murder. The law includes various exceptions, including "exigent circumstances" and a reasonable belief on the part of law enforcement that electronic recording would disclose the identity of a confidential informant or jeopardize the safety of an officer, the youth being interrogated, or another individual. If an exception is invoked, the prosecution must show by clear and convincing evidence that the exception is justified. If the interrogation is not recorded, the court must provide the jury with specific instructions to view with caution the statements made by the youth during the interrogation. S.B. 569/Act No. 799, signed into law October 13, 2013. 
  • Illinois — Statements Made by Illinois Youth During Custodial Interrogations Are Inadmissible in Court Unless Recorded: Illinois law now mandates that any oral, written, or sign language statements of a youth or adult made during a custodial interrogation in murder cases, certain sex offense cases, and cases involving offenses of bodily harm must be electronically recorded in order to be admissible as evidence against the person in a juvenile or criminal proceeding. S.B. 1006/Public Act No. 98-0547, signed into law August 26, 2013; effective January 1, 2014.

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  • Pennsylvania Court Rules Allow Admissions Only After Thorough Colloquies: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court modified its rules regarding admissions made by youth in delinquency cases. The court adopted a mandated admissions colloquy. Attorneys must now review the standard colloquy form with their youth clients prior to entering the courtroom. If the attorney believes that his or her client does not understand the form, the attorney may not allow the youth to make an admission. The court must then conduct an independent inquiry to determine whether the admission was made in accordance with the rules. Rule 407, amended January 18, 2012; effective April 1, 2012.

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  • Massachusetts — State Court Finds Interrogation of Youth to Be Overly Harsh, Miranda Rights Violated: A Massachusetts court found that an hours-long, aggressive interrogation of a sixteen-year-old girl violated her rights, and that her confession was involuntary. The court held that the girl was subject to a custodial interrogation without being properly advised of her Miranda rights, and without making a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of those rights. The court also found that the girl was not provided with an opportunity for meaningful consultation with her mother or an attorney about her rights, as required by Massachusetts’ “interested adult” rule. The court based its opinion in part on a video recording of the interrogation, which showed a “frightened, meek, emotionally compromised teenager who never understood the implications of her statements.” Commonwealth v. Nga Truong, 28 Mass. L. Rep. 223; 2011 Mass. Super. LEXIS 61. February 25, 2011, Decided.
  • National — U.S. Supreme Court Strengthens Protections for Youth Interrogated by Police: The United States Supreme Court ruled that investigating officers must take the age of suspects into account when deciding whether it is necessary to read them Miranda warnings. The decision demonstrates yet again the court’s recognition that youth are developmentally different from adults. At issue in the case was whether the 13-year-old youth in question was in a “custodial setting” when he was interviewed by police and school officials. Historically, Miranda warning analysis has not taken the age of the suspect into account. The opinion stated that “a child’s age is far ‘more than a chronological fact’” and that “it is beyond dispute that children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult in the same circumstances would feel free to leave. Seeing no reason for police officers or courts to blind themselves to that commonsense reality, we hold that a child’s age properly informs the Miranda custody analysis.” J.D.B. v. North Carolina, 131 S. Ct. 2394 (2011).

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  • Illinois — Law Protects Youths’ Right to Avoid Self-Incrimination: The Illinois General Assembly passed a law prohibiting statements made by youth, parents or guardians as part of any behavioral health screening, assessment, evaluation, or treatment from being used as evidence against the youth in a delinquency or criminal trial. H.B. 6129/Public Act 96-1251, signed into law July 23, 2010; effective January 1, 2011.
  • Louisiana — Legislature Restricts Use of Confessions: A new Louisiana law creates specific restrictions on the use of a youth’s confession in court without a knowing and voluntary waiver, unless the state proves in court beyond a reasonable doubt that the confession was “freely and voluntarily given and was not made under the influence of fear, duress, intimidation, menaces, threats, inducements, or promises.” The legislation includes a list of several factors that the court must consider in making such a determination, including the age and education of the child, and the methods and length of the interrogation. H.B. 663/Act 593, signed into law June 25, 2010; effective August 15, 2010.

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  • Arkansas — State Codifies Factors Used to Determine Whether a Youth’s Confession Is Voluntary: The Arkansas General Assembly codified factors for the court to consider when determining if a youth’s confession was made voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently. The factors include the youth’s maturity, whether the confession was coerced, whether a parent or guardian who agreed to the youth’s interrogation had an interest adverse to the youth, and whether the confession was audio- or video-recorded. Additionally, with regard to a determination of whether a youth voluntarily waived counsel, the statute specifically requires the court to consider whether the waiver was recorded in audio or video format. The law will provide juvenile defenders with concrete tools to fight improperly obtained confessions and waivers. S.B. 788/Act 759, signed into law April 1, 2009; effective July 31, 2009.
  • Montana — Law Requires Electronic Recording of Custodial Interrogations of Youth Charged with Felonies: The Montana Legislature now requires electronic recording of custodial interrogations in juvenile cases involving an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult. The law states several purposes for the requirement, including to provide the best evidence of the communications that occurred during an interrogation and prevent disputes about a police officer’s conduct or treatment of a suspect during the course of an interrogation. Statements made during interrogations that do not conform to the requirements of the law may be admitted in court if the prosecutor proves by a preponderance of the evidence that certain limited exceptions apply. H.B. 534/Ch. 214, signed into law April 15, 2009; effective October 1, 2009.
  • Oregon — Custodial Interviews of Youth Charged as Adults Must Be Electronically Recorded: Oregon law now requires a custodial interview by a peace officer in a law enforcement facility to be electronically recorded if the interview is conducted in connection with an investigation of aggravated murder, crimes requiring the imposition of a mandatory minimum sentence, or crimes requiring adult prosecution of youth offenders. The law allows unrecorded statements into evidence, but requires that the judge give the jury instructions concerning the fact that the statement was not recorded. S.B. 309/Ch. 488, signed into law June 24, 2009; effective January 1, 2010.

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