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The Importance of Recording Criminal Interrogations

If you find yourself in an interrogation room accused of a crime, you may or may not have that proceeding recorded. You also may not know why this is important. False confessions can be made under duress. You may be manipulated into making statements that you may think aren't that important, but can carry a lot of weight in a courtroom. If there is a recording, it will most likely start at the point where you are actually confessing. But the footage of what transpired prior--the coercion, the police feeding details that you would not otherwise know, and the intimidation--will not be taped or shown.

What's even more concerning is that most of what police officers do in an interrogation room is legal. What's usually deployed is the Reid Technique, a controversial method often used in interrogations. Most of the time, when interrogated, you'll be isolated. After being worn down for hours, it can be easy to admit to something that you actually didn't do.

There are hundreds of cases where people have been wrongly convicted of crimes they didn't commit, and the basis of the conviction was built on a confession. The New York Times reports that nationally, close to 30 percent of all people who have been cleared of wrongdoing through DNA evidence had made false confessions. In the state of New York, the percentage is closer to 50 percent. Even with the greater awareness of DNA evidence, it's incredibly difficult to reverse a conviction based on a confession.

Although the number of jurisdictions that tape interrogations has grown over the years, the state of New York currently doesn't have a law that requires taped interrogations. Criminal justice advocates like The Innocence Project have been pushing state legislators and the governor of New York to pass an interrogation bill that would require police interrogators to tape the entire interrogation session.

Until that legislation is passed, and even after, it's important for you to know that if you are ever asked questions by law enforcement, you should have a criminal defense attorney present before you even begin. Experienced legal counsel can advise you on how to answer the questions posed to you, as well as bear witness to the interrogation process, lending some needed outside accountability and oversight for the session.

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Robert D. DiDio
& Associates

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