False Confession Capital No More

Illinois is now the first state in the U.S. to ban police from using deception during interrogations with minors. Many advocates hope this will lower the likelihood of wrongful juvenile convictions, but will it make a difference? Let’s find out.

No More Lies

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed new legislation that will ban lying and coercive methods during interrogations. According to the law, confessions made under duress or through deception during interrogation will be inadmissible in court. This new law will go into effect in January 2022.

This, along with three other criminal justice reform bills, spell a brighter future for the justice system in Illinois. Senate Bill 2122 not only has the full support of Gov. Pritzker but many members of the state senate from both sides of the aisle.

Pritzker says this legislation, along with the three additional justice reform bills, will “advance the rights of some of our most vulnerable in our justice system, and they put Illinois at the forefront of the work to bring true reform.”

Why SB 2122 Is Important

For most people, police interrogations are only a part of the bigger picture, but in reality, an interrogation can make a case where there wasn’t one before. Unfortunate for minors, police questioning can also be a frightening and confusing experience.

According to the Innocence Project, Illinois has a long-standing reputation as the “False Confession Capital of the United States.” A long history of coerced confessions has led many to believe that justice is the farthest thing from the minds of law enforcement, and based on the Prairie State’s history, those who speculate aren’t far off.

Advocates have long been concerned about the use of deception during police interrogations of minors. Not only are those under 18 more vulnerable, but they could face lifelong penalties for crimes they were coerced into confessing.

Historically, law enforcement would use false promises and fake claims of incriminating evidence to pressure minors into a confession. These tactics increase the likelihood of false confessions, challenge the idea of justice, and result in the innocent being put behind bars.

So far, over 100 wrongful convictions have taken place in Illinois. Out of these, 31 of the accused were under the age of 18.

Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx says the “history of false confessions in Illinois can never be erased, but this law is a critical step to ensuring that history is never repeated.”

What Happens Now?

Other states like Oregon and New York are in the process of moving similar anti-coercive interrogation laws, with hopefully many more to follow.

For the Prairie state, the future of police investigation should progress without the need for lies and deception. The state will require data collection and records of all interrogations with penalties for anyone who tries disobeying the law.

Children, people of color, the poor, and prior offenders are the most vulnerable people in the justice system. Without proper safeguards in place, their futures could be destroyed forever. Gov. Pritzker and others are optimistic that this will be a new age for law enforcement and the community free of deceptive tactics that only hurt instead of help.

Johnson Law Group will continue to follow the story as it develops.

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