The Florida Bar

Florida Bar News

Senate Criminal Justice Committee moves bill to ‘prohibit deceptive practices’ when interrogating minors

Senior Editor Top Stories
Sen. Janet Cruz

Sen. Janet Cruz

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee, meeting on the first day of the legislative session, agreed to make juvenile confessions inadmissible when an interrogator “engages in deception.”

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted 7-0 on January 11 to approve SB 668 by Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa.

“This bill will prohibit deceptive practices by law enforcement during the interrogation of a minor,” Cruz said.

The measure would create a rebuttable presumption that a confession made by a minor in a custodial setting is inadmissible if the law enforcement officer uses some form of deception to obtain it.

The measure defines deception as “the knowing communication by a law enforcement officer to a subject of a custodial interrogation of false facts about evidence or unauthorized statements regarding leniency.”

The presumption could be overcome if a prosecutor can prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that that confession was voluntarily given “based on the totality of the circumstances.”

Cruz said courts already consider whether a juvenile confession was obtained without a written waiver of Miranda rights, or without the suspect’s ability to confer with parents.

“Florida courts already consider age as a relevant factor,” Cruz said. “This bill is simply a minor adjustment.”

But Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Lady Lake, wasn’t convinced.

“Is any law enforcement here to speak to this?” he said.

When no one stepped forward, Cruz assured Baxley that she had worked with critics.

“Senator Baxley, we’ve done some work on the bill, and we don’t seem to find any extreme opposition,” she said.

The measure faces hearings in the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee and Rules before reaching the Senate floor.

A companion, HB 109 by Rep. Travaris McCurdy, D-Orlando, has yet to be heard.