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March 11, 2023

Bill on Admissibility Standards for Youth Interrogations Advances in the House

DENVER, CO - The House today passed legislation to bar a juvenile’s statement from being admitted in court if law enforcement used deceptive practices during a custodial interrogation. It passed by a vote of 42-21.

“Children and teens are especially vulnerable to tactics that deliberately include statements that interrogators know are untrue,” said Rep. Jennifer Bacon, D-Denver. “One nationwide study found that 44% of kids falsely confessed to a crime, compared to only 13% of adults. Our children don’t have the tools to navigate the justice system and because of their developmental phase they struggle to fully process their surroundings. As a result we see children ending up behind bars instead of in the classroom. We’re bringing this bill so we can prevent Colorado kids from having permanent records over false confessions and crimes they didn’t commit so they can have the opportunity to build the bright future every child in Colorado deserves.”

“As a criminal defense attorney, I’ve seen the distress that innocent kids experience when they’re accused of committing a crime,” said Rep. Said Sharbini, D-Brighton. “Requiring juvenile interrogations to be recorded allows the judge to determine if untruthful practices have been used in a juvenile’s confession or if they believe the real suspect is still walking free. Quickly identifying false confessions means that our law enforcement officers can focus on finding the actual perpetrator, keeping our communities safe from further crimes.”

HB23-1042 makes a juvenile’s statement inadmissible in court if a law enforcement official knowingly uses untruthful practices during a custodial interrogation, unless the prosecution can prove that the statement was made voluntarily despite the untruth. It would require an interrogation to be recorded and would allow a judge to use the recording to determine if the statement or admission is voluntary and admissible.

The bill would allocate $30,000 to fund interrogation training for law enforcement to improve understanding of juvenile development, strengthen techniques for building rapport with juveniles, and reduce the likelihood of false confessions.

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