Did You Know That Recordings are Required During an Interview for a Serious Felony Offense?

Most people are probably not aware that a new law went into effect in 2017 that changes the way serious felony offenses are handled in Texas. Known as Senate Bill 1253, this law requires that law enforcement must record custodial interrogations that occur in a place of detention when the person being interviewed is suspected of committing or is being charged with committing a crime. If the law enforcement agency does not record the interrogation, they must show good cause why obtaining an electronic recording was not feasible.

SB 1253 Requirements

The law, which is covered under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 2.32 , Electronic Recording of Custodial Interrogations, states that audiovisual or audio recordings are mandatory for a number of different crimes, including:

  • Aggravated kidnapping

  • Sexual abuse

  • Murder

  • Trafficking of people

  • Sexual assault

  • Indecency with a child

  • Improper relationship between educator and student

  • Sexual performance by a child

These recordings, if in compliance with the law, are exempt from public disclosure. The law also states that no oral statements, written statements, or sign language would be admissible against a defendant unless an electronic statement was also completed.

If the prosecution submits a statement as evidence, but they fail to provide the accompanying audio recording, the court has discretion to consider its absence when evaluating all the evidence.

Why This Law is Necessary

By recording an interrogation from start to finish, it provides an objective view of what really took place during the session. Someone can be interrogated for hours and end up confessing to a crime he or she did not commit out of sheer exhaustion or from being tricked or coerced. The court would not be privy to the 10 hours leading up to the moment the defendant signed a statement.

According to the Innocence Project , more than 350 of the nation’s wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence involved some type of false confession. They note that electronic records are beneficial to both the innocent and to law enforcement.

For the innocent, electronic recordings:

  • Ensure a person’s rights are protected during the interrogation;

  • Create a record of the entire interrogation and what happened leading up to the confession; and

  • Are a deterrent against law enforcement using coercive techniques during an interrogation.

For law enforcement, an electronic recording can:

  • Prevent potential disputes on how a suspect was treated;

  • Create a permanent record of all statements, which makes it difficult for a defendant to change his or her story;

  • Allow officers to concentrate on the interview rather than being forced to take detailed notes;

  • Help foster better public confidence in law enforcement and reduce potential citizen complaints; and

  • Preserve subtle details that could be lost if the interview was not recorded. This can help law enforcement down the line in unsolved cases.

Retaining a Travis County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one have been charged with a serious felony in Texas, you need a skilled Travis County criminal defense attorney who will prepare the best defense possible. Contact Granger and Mueller PC today at 512-474-9999 to schedule a consultation.

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