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Proposed law would help protect juveniles from false confessions

On Behalf of | Jan 8, 2022 | Juvenile Crimes |

Many people would be surprised to learn that police and other law enforcement authorities can legally lie to those they’re questioning to elicit a confession or other information they need. They may, for example, tell a suspect that a piece of evidence places them at the scene of a crime when there is no such evidence or that another suspect turned on them when in fact, they didn’t.

However, there has been concern about the effect of deceptive tactics on juvenile suspects. Some law enforcement professionals and attorneys have long argued that they shouldn’t use these tactics on young people because they’re more likely to confess to crimes they didn’t commit than adults are.

The so-called “Central Park Five” is probably the best-known example of teens confessing to a brutal crime they didn’t commit. The problem is far more widespread, however.

State lawmakers are starting to take steps to prohibit lying to juvenile suspects. On Jan. 1, Illinois became the first state in the country to prohibit the use of deceptive tactics on minors. Data showed that almost a third of recent wrongful convictions in that state were based on false confessions by suspects who were minors.

Bill has been introduced in the Florida Senate

Now, with the Florida Legislature preparing to begin its 2022 session, one state senator has introduced a bill that would help minimize false confessions by minors. SB 668 would make confessions by minors during custodial interrogations inadmissible “if deceptive tactics are used.” There would be a “presumption of inadmissibility,” which means that prosecutors would have “the burden of proving that such confessions were voluntary.”

It’s crucial to teach your child that if they’re ever arrested, they should respectfully but firmly invoke their rights, including their right to an attorney, which should stop all questioning. Too many people – of all ages – make these situations worse for themselves by trying to cooperate with the police or simply becoming intimidated by them. Having legal guidance from the very beginning can help people protect their rights.