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Bill passed by Oregon Senate attempts to stop police from lying to get confessions from minor suspects

Senate Bill 418 would make statements inadmissible if made by a minor after investigators fed them false information.

Posted: May 24, 2021 4:33 PM
Updated: May 24, 2021 4:35 PM

SALEM, Ore. — A bill passed by the Oregon Senate attempts to bar investigators from lying to a minor during an interrogation in order to gain a confession.

Senate Bill 418, if passed by the House and signed into law, would presume statements made by a minor to be involuntary if the investigator "used information known by the officer to be false to elicit the statement."

The bill would allow the presumption to be overcome if the state can prove "by clear and convincing evidence" that the statement was voluntary and not made in response to the false information.

“Science, ethics and good law enforcement all agree, lying to kids during an investigation is a bad practice,” said Democratic Senator Chris Gorsek, chief sponsor of SB 418 and a former police officer. “Investigators should be doing the work to get the facts, not trying to trick a kid into a confession.”

Supporters of the bill cited studies that demonstrate juveniles have fundamental brain differences from adults, making them more susceptible to police interrogation tactics and indicating that they are less likely to understand their Miranda rights. Another study found that juveniles are two or three times more likely than adults to confess to criminal acts that they didn't commit.

“We know the data and we have the research,” said Senator Gorsek. “Tactics that include lying to youth during an investigation is not in the interest of justice. It can ruin lives, it erodes trust in the legal system, it is painful for victims and does not improve public safety. It’s wrong and it’s a practice that needs to end.”

Gorsek's office said that SB 418 received support from medical professionals, justice advocates, and some in law enforcement. The bill passed in the Senate with a vote of 24-4 and now goes on to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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