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Deceptive Interrogation Practices on Juveniles - Assembly Bill 2644

Posted by Dmitry Gorin | Mar 20, 2024

Let's review new prohibitions on law enforcement using deceptive interrogation practices on juveniles under California Assembly Bill 2644 (AB 2644)

During law enforcement interrogations, it's common practice for police to resort to specific psychological "tactics" to get a detainee either to confess to a crime or to say something self-incriminating. This is why anyone needs to have legal counsel present when being interrogated by police. 

However, juveniles can be particularly vulnerable when it comes to such practices. Historically, deceptive or psychological manipulations during interrogations of youth have led to false confessions and wrongful convictions. 

Deceptive Interrogation Practices on Juveniles - Assembly Bill 2644
Assembly Bill 2644 prohibits law enforcement from using deceptive interrogation practices on juveniles.

To that end, in October 2022, California Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 2644 (AB 2644) into law, a piece of legislation that imposes stricter guidelines on how police are allowed to interrogate juveniles

Effective January 1, 2024, the bill prohibits law enforcement officers from employing threats, physical harm, deception, or psychologically manipulative interrogation tactics during a custodial interrogation of a minor. 

The bill defines “psychologically manipulative interrogation tactics” as including interrogation practices that rely on a presumption of guilt or deceit, make promises of leniency, or employ a “forced choice” strategy. 

“Deception” includes the knowing communication of false facts about evidence, misrepresenting the accuracy of the facts, or false statements regarding leniency.

Psychologically manipulative interrogation tactics include maximization minimization and other interrogation practices but rely on a presumption of guilt or deceit.  

Maximization includes techniques to scare or intimidate someone by repetitively asserting the person is guilty despite their denials or exaggerating the magnitude of the charges or the strength of the evidence, including suggesting the existence of evidence that does not exist.

The bill contains a limited exception for questioning an officer who believes obtaining information about an imminent threat to life or property is necessary. If law enforcement violates these provisions in any way, the juvenile's statements can be rendered inadmissible in court.

What is Assembly Bill 2644?

AB 2644 aims to protect juveniles from deceptive and psychologically manipulative practices during police interrogations. The bill explicitly addresses individuals aged 25 or younger, recognizing that this demographic is susceptible to coercion and manipulation.

Simply put, this bill, commencing January 1, 2024, prohibits law enforcement officers from employing threats, physical harm, deception, or psychologically manipulative interrogation tactics during a custodial interrogation

This bill requires a probation officer, no later than 2 hours after someone has been taken into custody, to notify the public defender immediately or, if there is no public defender, the indigent defense provider for the county, that they were taken into custody. 

Under these new rules, law enforcement is prohibited from using deceptive interrogation techniques on individuals under 25. These techniques include, but are not limited to:

  • False promises of leniency,
  • Presenting false evidence, and
  • Making untrue statements about the involvement of the juvenile in the crime. 

Under AB 2644, any statement a juvenile makes during interrogation due to deceptive or psychologically manipulative tactics is presumed involuntary. In other words, such statements cannot be used as direct evidence against the youth in any criminal or juvenile court proceeding.

Minimization involves minimizing the moral seriousness of the offense, a tactic that falsely communicates that the conduct is justified, excusable, or accidental. It also includes making direct or indirect promises of leniency, such as indicating the person will be released if they cooperate.

Why Was This Bill Necessary?

False confessions have been identified as a significant contributor to wrongful convictions. Research indicates that approximately 63% of false confessors were under the age of 25, and 32% were under the age of 18.

AB 2644 aligns with a national movement to address this issue and follows similar laws enacted in Illinois and Oregon. By prohibiting deceptive and psychologically manipulative interrogation tactics, the bill aims to protect the rights of juveniles and prevent wrongful convictions.

What are the Implications for Juveniles in California?

Before the enactment of AB 2644, existing law required individuals aged 17 or younger to consult with legal counsel before waiving any rights during a custodial interrogation. 

However, these provisions did not adequately protect the youth from false confessions resulting from coercive and manipulative interrogation techniques.

AB 2644 fills this gap by acknowledging the developmental differences and vulnerabilities of individuals under 25. It imposes additional safeguards to protect their rights during the interrogation process, ensuring that confessions obtained under coercive circumstances are not considered direct evidence of guilt.

What About the Enforcement of AB 2644?

AB 2644 mandates that any statement made by a youth during an interrogation involving prohibited tactics be presumed involuntary. This presumption burdens law enforcement officers to demonstrate that the statement was obtained voluntarily and without using prohibited tactics.

The bill also calls for additional scrutiny and safeguards to ensure that young individuals are protected from improper interrogation methods.

The implementation of AB 2644 has required significant adjustments in law enforcement practices. Officers must now undergo training that emphasizes the developmentally appropriate interrogation of juveniles, promoting techniques that are effective yet respectful of their psychological and legal rights. 

This shift represents a move from a confession-centric approach to one that values the accuracy and reliability of the information gathered.

What if a Violation Occurs?

If you believe that your child has been subjected to prohibited interrogation techniques—or if you are under the age of 25 and you have been subjected to these tactics yourself— it is crucial to take specific steps to protect your/their rights and best interests. Here are some recommended actions:

  • Contact a Skilled Defense Attorney: Engage a legal professional with specific experience in juvenile law. A good attorney will help protect the juvenile's rights and guide them through the legal process. If an inappropriate interrogation has yielded incriminatory statements, the attorney can move to have these statements rendered inadmissible in court.
  • Document Everything: Write down all details of the interaction with the police, including the date, time, location, officers involved, and any specifics about what was said or done. This information could be crucial evidence later.
  • Request All Records: Request all records related to the interrogation from the law enforcement agency. These may include audio or video recordings, written reports, or other documentation.
  • Do Not Sign Anything Without Legal Advice: Discourage the juvenile from signing documents without a lawyer. Any signed statements or waivers could potentially be used against them in court.
  • File a Complaint: If you believe prohibited interrogation techniques were used, file a complaint with the law enforcement agency's internal affairs division or the local police oversight board.

Contact our law firm for more information. Eisner Gorin LLP has offices in Los Angeles, California.

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About the Author

Dmitry Gorin

Dmitry Gorin is a licensed attorney, who has been involved in criminal trial work and pretrial litigation since 1994. Before becoming partner in Eisner Gorin LLP, Mr. Gorin was a Senior Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles Courts for more than ten years. As a criminal tri...

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