Proposed Bill HB 109 Bars Juvenile Confessions Obtained by ‘Deception’

October 4, 2021 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

Democrat representative Travaris “Tray” McCurdy from Orlando, Florida, filed a measure that would deem juvenile confessions inadmissible if such confessions are found to be the product of “deception.” This bill was filed on September 15th and is going to face hearings in the Judiciary and Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee before a vote by the House. Thus far, there is no like-measure in the Senate. The sixty-day session will end on January 11th. If approved, the act would take effect on July 1, 2022.

The Text of the Bill

The bill, as originally filed, states that it is “an act relating to prohibiting deception in interrogations of minors.” This bill, if approved, would create Section 985.0302 of the Florida Statutes, and would create “a presumption that a confession of a minor during a custodial interrogation is inadmissible in certain proceedings if a law enforcement officer knowingly engaged in deception.” This bill also provides for a “rebuttal of the presumption in certain circumstances,” specification on the “burden of proof to overcome such a presumption,” and “an effective date.”

Further, the bill summarizes the intention behind it by stating that “an oral, written, or sign language confession of a minor, who at the time of the commission of the offense was under 18 years of age, made as a result of a custodial interrogation conducted at a place of detention on or after July 1, 2022, shall be presumed to be inadmissible as evidence against the minor making the confession in a criminal proceedings or a juvenile court proceeding for an act that if committed by an adult would be a misdemeanor or felony offense if, during the custodial interrogation, a law enforcement officer knowingly engages in deception.”

The bill adds that the presumption that the confession is inadmissible can be overcome by a “preponderance of the evidence that the confession was voluntary, based on the totality of the circumstances.” This burden is on the state to procure evidence and witnesses to show that no deception was used, and the confession was made voluntarily.

What is ‘Custodial Interrogation’?

The text of the proposed measure provides the definition for ‘custodial interrogation,’ stating that this term is used for “any interrogation during which a reasonable person in the subject’s position would consider himself or herself to be in custody and during which a question is asked that is reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response.”

What is ‘Deception’?

The text of the proposed measure also provides a definition for this term, stating that ‘deception’ refers to the “knowing communication of false facts about evidence or unauthorized statements regarding leniency by a law enforcement officer to a subject of custodial interrogation.”

What Does the Bill Mean by ‘Place of Detention’?

This term, as used in the proposed measure, means a “police station or other building that is a place of operation for a police department, county sheriff department, or other law enforcement agency at which persons are or may be held in detention in connection with criminal charges against those persons or allegations that those persons are delinquent minors.”

Who is Travaris “Tray” McCurdy?

Rep. McCurdy is a member of the Florida House of Representatives from the 46th district. He stepped into office on November 3rd, 2020. He was born and raised in Orlando, Florida, and attended Florida A&M University for his bachelor’s degree in political science. Before his time as a representative, McCurdy worked with For Our Future PAC as the deputy political director. Additionally, McCurdy worked as a legislative aide for Senator Randolph Bracy and Representative Geraldine Thompson.

Fast Facts About Lies During Police Questioning

  • It is usually legal for law enforcement officers to lie during interrogations.

Though police are generally barred from using physical force during interrogations, they can still use psychological manipulation and deceit to get information, and even confessions, from suspects. These tactics are outlined in police training manuals and ask police officers to use these manipulation procedures in order to extract valuable information.

  • Minors are particularly susceptible to police deception. Juvenile suspects are particularly susceptible to false confessions due to law enforcement deception because their brains are not fully developed, especially the parts of the brain that control future judgment, critical thinking, decision making, and long-term consequences.

Interestingly, out of the over two hundred exonerees who were wrongly convicted as juveniles, thirty-six percent of them falsely confessed, whereas ten percent of exonerees who were wrongly convicted as adults falsely confessed. 

A popular interrogation technique, called the Reid Technique, juxtaposed with the particular vulnerability of young brains, has led to an incredibly high rate of false confessions among juvenile suspects.

  • Currently, police deception is legal in every state. Though police deception is currently legal in some form in every state, some states like Illinois and Oregon recently banned the use of police deception during the questioning of juvenile suspects. But these states still allow for these tactics to be used against adult suspects. New York is the only state currently trying to eradicate police deception in questioning altogether. New York introduced Senate Bill 324, led by Senator Zellnor Myrie. This bill would ban police deception during questioning while requiring that courts look at the reliability of confession evidence before admitting such evidence. At this time, confessions only have to be deemed as “voluntary” to be used as evidence in court. The court does not look at the reliability of the confession, meaning whether it was obtained through deception and manipulation. Through this bill, courts would have to evaluate the reliability of the confession evidence.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

It is incredibly important to protect children from overbearing police questioning and deception. If left unprotected, these children could give false confessions that affect the rest of their lives. That is why it is imperative that you retain an experienced and knowledgeable Tallahassee criminal defense attorney that will ensure your child is protected throughout the legal process. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have years of experience defending juvenile offenders against criminal charges in Florida. Call us today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message today to discuss your case during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.

This article was written by Gabi D’Esposito

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