Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) introduced AB 2644 – Juvenile Custodial Interrogations bill which prohibits the use of statements made by youth (25 years of age or younger) as evidence in criminal or juvenile court proceedings if they were made during interrogations where law enforcement used threats, physical harm, deception, or psychologically manipulative tactics.
If passed, the bill would further a national movement to confront this serious issue of law enforcement’s use of deceptive interrogation tactics on youth.
“If we want our youth to have core values of honesty, integrity, and empathy, we need to demonstrate that in positions of authority,” said Assemblymember Chris Holden. “This bill promotes truth and prevents innocent youth from entering the prison system.”
According to Holden, tactics used to intimidate suspects during interrogations have been scrutinized and criticized by experts in social science and factions of the law enforcement community as they increase the risk of obtaining false confessions and wrongful convictions.
According to the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth (CWCY), false confessions are one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions, accounting for roughly 25% of all convictions that were later overturned based on DNA evidence.
AB 2644 focuses on protecting youth from these techniques, recognizing the particular vulnerabilities of youth and their need for immediate protection as well as the egregious nature of deceptive interrogation tactics.
According to the California Innocence Coalition (The Northern California Innocence Project in Santa Clara, the California Innocence Project in San Diego, and Loyola Project for the Innocent in Los Angeles), “False confessions have long been recognized as a leading cause of wrongful convictions and if we can take steps to reduce the risks of this happening then we need to do so to increase the integrity of our system. That is what AB 2644 is doing, it is taking that giant step.”
In 2017, the Legislature approved, and Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1308 (Stone), which requires the board of parole hearings to conduct youth offender parole hearings for offenders that were 25 years of age or younger at the time of the offense.
AB 2644 recognizes that this age range should also be shielded from improper interrogation methods. The bill closely follows newly enacted laws in Illinois, the first state to pass legislation that prohibits police officers from using deceptive interrogations tactics on children, and Oregon.