Bill to discourage Colorado police from lying to minors advances in House committee

The Colorado Legislature’s House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday introduced a bill that would raise admissibility standards for testimony by juveniles in court, a second legislative effort aimed at preventing police from lying to minors during interrogations.

House Bill 23-1042 passed in committee along party lines, with the nine Democrats voting in favor and the four Republicans voting against.


If passed, the law would make testimony by juveniles inadmissible in court if law enforcement used deceptive tactics during an interrogation, e.g. B. lying to the minor about incriminating evidence. Prosecutors would have to prove that the statement was made voluntarily in order to be used in court.

“Young people process things differently,” Jennifer Bacon, a Denver Democrat, said during the committee hearing. “Your relationships with adults are important. The way they understand authority and how it affects their own freedom is not the same as it would be for an adult.”

The bill is also backed by Brighton Democratic Rep. Said Sharbini and Denver Senator Julie Gonzales. It would also require law enforcement to record all interrogations of minors and it would require the development of training for officers who interrogate juveniles. A tax note estimated that the training would cost about $30,000.

“We want to make sure what’s being done is correct,” Sharbini said.

A similar bill died at the end of the session last year. However, this law specifically prohibits law enforcement from using deceptive tactics when interviewing children.

I was told I would go to prison for life if I didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear… I was fooled by all their lies. I hope you can prevent this from happening to others.

Bacon said that when law enforcement uses deceptive tactics, teens can feel confused, fearful and, at worst, can lead the suspect to admit to crimes they didn’t commit to get out of the stressful interrogation. She pointed to a study by the National Registry of Exonerations that showed that 38% of juveniles exonerated of crimes over a 25-year period made false confessions, compared to 11% of adults.

She said when teens are exposed to these techniques, they can become emotionally and psychologically traumatized and develop a distrust of the justice system, particularly in the black community.

“Is this a tool that will make an impact beyond its ease of use when it comes to trust? Is that a tool that can evolve as well?” she said. “It’s not an indictment, but this bill puts on the table that there are implications that we should address on public policy and public safety grounds.”

Lorenzo Montoya testified Tuesday that he confessed to a murder he did not commit when he was 14, after police told him there was evidence at the scene proving his guilt. He was convicted of murder and served 13 years in prison before being exonerated.

“I was told that if I didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear, I would go to prison for life,” he told committee members. “I was fooled by all their lies. I hope you can prevent this from happening to others.”

Law enforcement officials, who also opposed the last session’s version of the legislation, strongly opposed the bill during Tuesday’s hearing, arguing that the interrogation technique is a best practice that is being used sparingly and that protections for minors already exist .

“The very name of this bill implies that these are unethical practices on the part of law enforcement. However, these are ethical, time-tested interviewing techniques that allow law enforcement to obtain information,” Arvada Police Chief Ed Brady said, referring to the bill on admissibility standards for juvenile testimony.

Brady said the goal of misleading interrogation tactics is never to obtain a false confession, but to persuade the suspect to share information he might not otherwise reveal.

The bill now goes to the Appropriations Committee.

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