ILNews

Court adopts police interrogation rule

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Following the model of more than a dozen other states, the Indiana Supreme Court has added a new Rule of Evidence to require that certain statements be recorded before they can be entered into evidence.

Approved by a three-justice majority, today's six-page order adds Indiana Rule 617 that applies to any statements on or after Jan. 1, 2011.

Noting how electronically recorded interrogations assist courts and can be used as a potent law enforcement tool for guilt or innocence, the rule reads in part, "In a felony criminal prosecution, evidence of a statement made by a person during a Custodial Interrogation in a Place of Detention shall not be admitted against the person unless an Electronic Recording of the statement was made."

The rule specifically mandates that an audio-video recording be made within a jail, law enforcement agency station house, or facility owned and operated by law enforcement.

Seven exemptions are included:

1. Statements made as part of routine processing or booking

2. Statements made when the suspect does not agree to be electronically recorded

3. When there is an equipment malfunction

4. When the interrogation takes place in another jurisdiction

5. When law enforcement officers reasonably believe the crime under investigation isn't a felony

6. The statement made is spontaneous and not in response to a question

7. Substantial exigent circumstances exist which prevent the recording

The rule takes effect in 2011, a delay put in place at Marion County's request, to allow law enforcement agencies there to buy necessary equipment, train officers, and implement the new policies.

Once it takes effect, the court expects the recordings will lead to fewer factual disputes and reduce the number of motions to suppress evidence, as well as possibly lead to more guilty pleas.

"With the foregoing considerations in mind, the Court finds that the interests of justice and sound judicial administration will be served by the adoption of a new Rule of Evidence," the order reads.

Voting against the revision were Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justice Frank Sullivan, who wrote dissenting paragraphs highlighting the Hoosier law enforcement community's integrity and existing practice as reasons not to amend the rule.

"There are states where bad conduct by police or prosecutors has led to repeated injustice in the criminal process," the chief justice wrote. "Indiana has not been such a place. My assessment of the honesty and professionalism of Indiana's public safety officers leads me to conclude that today's action is not warranted."

Justice Sullivan observed that many state police agencies have already taken this initiative on their own, and so it isn't necessary for the court to get involved.

More than 300 comments came into the court's Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure earlier this year during a public comment period that ended April 30. Of the total, the court reports that 89 comments came from law enforcement officers, 80 from the general public, 36 from prosecutors, 27 from public defenders, 61 from other attorneys, five from judges, and five from other judicial officers.

Sixteen states, as well as Washington, D.C., currently have statutory requirements or court rules requiring or encouraging the recording of police interrogations to some degree. Legislation has been proposed in several states and is endorsed by the American Bar Association. Wrongful conviction advocates report that about a quarter of the DNA exonerations nationally involve some aspect of innocent defendants making incriminating statements, delivering false confessions or pleading guilty.

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  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

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