Police in Illinois could soon be banned from lying to juvenile suspects during questioning.
The Illinois state legislature approved a bill on Sunday prohibiting law enforcement officers from using deception tactics while interrogating minors – who advocates have long argued are especially vulnerable to making false confessions.
Under the bill, confessions made by juvenile suspects who were deceived by law enforcement officers during the interrogation process would be deemed “inadmissible as evidence.”
“When a kid is in a stuffy interrogation room being grilled by adults, they’re scared and are more likely to say whatever it is they think the officer wants to hear to get themselves out of that situation, regardless of the truth,” state Sen. Robert Peters, one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement.
“Police officers too often exploit this situation in an effort to elicit false information and statements from minors in order to help them with a case. Real safety and justice can never be realized if we allow this practice to continue.”
The bill, originally sponsored by Democrats Peters and state Rep. Justin Slaughter, passed with bipartisan support, with state House Republican leader Jim Durkin also among the dozens of co-sponsors.
The legislation is ‘the first of its kind’
Illinois is the first state to pass such a bill, according to the Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization that works to exonerate those it believes to have been wrongfully convicted.
“This historic legislation – the first of its kind to pass a state legislature – is a breakthrough in safeguarding against the wrongful convictions of young people,” Rebecca Brown, director of policy at the Innocence Project, said in a statement.
“It is far more likely than one might think for someone, particularly a child, to confess out of fear, coercion, or desperation when deceptive tactics are used during an interrogation.”
Research shows that children are two to three times more likely than adults to falsely confess to a crime, according to a 2017 article published in the New York University Law Review. That, in turn, also puts them at greater risk of being wrongfully convicted.
In Illinois, about one-third of wrongful convictions based on false confessions have involved minors, according to Lauren Kaeseberg, legal director at the Illinois Innocence Project.
The bill now goes to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk for signature.