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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Police can lie to kids and use their statements against them in court. A Senate bill hopes to change that

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If a member of law enforcement knowingly lies about criminal evidence, information or consequences while interviewing a child, Indiana law allows the child’s statement to be used against them.

Senate Bill 415, which unanimously passed out of the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee Feb. 21, would largely make these statements inadmissible in court.
Advocates said the current Indiana law opens up the potential for wrongful convictions.

“We don’t allow defendants, suspects to lie. So we should never allow police to lie,” said Nicky Jackson, a criminal justice professor at Purdue University Northwest, at a committee hearing last week.

Researchers who testified about the proposed legislation also said youth don’t have the brain development to comprehend that an adult officer may be lying to them. The prefrontal cortex, which controls the brain’s decision making, planning and impulses, doesn’t fully develop until age 25.

Courtney Curtis from the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council opposed the legislation during the initial committee hearing. She said the law isn’t necessary because Indiana allows parents to consult with their children before an interrogation. 

But Joel Wieneke, a senior staff attorney with the Indiana Public Defender’s Council, disagrees. He emphasized that most parents aren’t lawyers, and likely do not understand the law any better than their children do.

“The protection of a parent in a meaningful consultation is inadequate to protect kids,” he said. “We need further protections like this.”

SB 415 will now move to a second reading in the Senate.

Contact WFYI criminal justice reporter Katrina Pross at kpross@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @katrina_pross.

Pross is a Corps Member of Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

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