Risk of Juvenile False Confessions Lessened in Nevada

suspect and police officerIn our last blog, we discussed the promise of Assembly Bill 193, which at the time was being considered by the Nevada Legislature. The new law would prohibit a police officer from lying to a juvenile suspect during an interrogation in an attempt to get an incriminating statement from the child. Of course, the police and District Attorney’s Association were opposed to this common sense law (https://www.nevadacurrent.com/2023/03/01/police-das-oppose-bill-to-prohibit-lying-to-juveniles-during-interrogations/) because apparently they still want the legal right to lie to children who are questioned.

Thankfully, the Nevada Assembly and Senate did the right thing and passed the proposed law. Governor Lombardo signed the legislation on June 5, 2023. (https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/82nd2023/Bill/9902/Overview). However, the law does not go into effect until July 1, 2024.

The new law prohibits a police officer from making “a materially false statement about evidence that is reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the child” or from makingany express or implied promise to [a] child of leniency or advantage for the child” that the officer lacks the authority to make. For example, “any promise about the filing of charges or prosecution of the child.”

However, a possible loophole to the new law is the fact that it only applies to “custodial” questioning of juveniles. The term “custodial” doesn’t necessarily mean being placed in handcuffs or being officially under arrest. Rather, it means that the police have deprived the suspect of his or her freedom of action in any significant way. Consequently, the police will likely do and say things before, during, and after the questioning to try and argue later in court that the child was not “in custody.”

The dangers of lying to a juvenile during questioning can be seen in a recent Chicago case where a 15-year-old falsely confessed to the attempted murder of a store clerk. The police kept the innocent child in jail until his basketball team proved he was in another town during the shooting. Part of the police questioning in the case included lying to the 15-year-old about an abundance of evidence that he was at the scene of the shooting and that he was involved.

The following article gives an excellent dissection of the police interrogation and why it led to a false confession: https://www.wbez.org/stories/interrogation-video-shows-how-cop-got-teens-false-confession/7db602c6-0e44-4d69-82d5-f2280442a0f9?utm_source=TMP-Newsletter&utm_campaign=cdc40c420e-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2023_07_21_11_09&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5e02cdad9d-cdc40c420e-%5BLIST_EMAIL_ID%5D

This dangerous practice must be outlawed not only as to juveniles, but as to adults as well. Otherwise, our criminal justice system will continue to risk the chance of false confessions and putting innocent people in prison, or, even worse, executing them. This new law is a step in the right direction.

Nobles & Yanez has 23 years of experience handling juvenile criminal cases, including those where a child has given a statement to the police. Call us if you need to discuss your or your child’s case.