Oregon House OKs requiring recording of juvenile questioning

Bill introduced by two former police officers

SALEM, Ore. - The Oregon House has approved legislation to require the recording of certain juvenile interrogations.

House Bill 3261, introduced by Reps. Chris Gorsek (D-Troutdale) and Carla Piluso (D-Gresham), two legislators with law enforcement experience*, passed out of the House Wednesday by a 51-6 vote, with bipartisan support.

The bill provides juveniles with expanded protections, calling for the recording of young people whenever they’re subject to a custodial interview, when appropriate equipment is either already required or otherwise available.

The update expands on their 2017 legislation that required interviews related to felonious acts. The update requires the recording of all law enforcement interviews when Miranda warnings would be required and youth are questioned in relation to acts that, if committed by an adult, would be considered a misdemeanor.

Recording of custodial interviews is nationally recognized as a best practice by a range of groups including the International Association of Chiefs of Police as well as the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth at Northwestern University.

Center co-founder Steven Drizin and co-director Laura Nirider consulted in the development of the legislation. Nirider has drawn national attention as the attorney for Brendan Dassey, a young man whose homicide conviction, featured in the Netflix Documentary Making a Murderer, was overturned by a U.S. magistrate judge in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

From the floor of the House, “While basic fairness is of utmost importance, this bill also concerns broader questions of integrity in our criminal justice system. We must always work to provide equal protection. This is especially true for young people who are vulnerable as the result of their incomplete cognitive development.”

HB 3261 was developed with the input of stakeholders from law enforcement, the legal community, as well as juvenile justice experts from Oregon and around the nation. The resulting bill provides better protection for the accused while also assisting with the prosecution of those involved in criminality, supporters said.

Other benefits of recording custodial interviews include providing officers added protection from false accusations as well as an objective record of any inconsistencies in the statements made by the accused.

Providing a more complete documentation of custodial interviews is a protection for all involved; including the victims of crime. Having a comprehensive account of these interviews can provide an enduring archive that will remain static over time and will serve the cause of justice for everyone involved.

House Bill 3261 also contains an appropriate remedy for the admittance of interviews that are not recorded because of technical failures or other unforeseen circumstances. This ensures that the notes from these interviews will still be available to both prosecution and defense for use in a court of law.

There is also an exemption for departments that have five or fewer officers so that it mirrors the requirements for adult recorded interviews as they currently occur in the Oregon revised statutes.

*Rep. Carla Piluso spent 30 years in law enforcement including six years as Gresham Police Chief. Rep. Chris Gorsek served as a Portland police officer for seven years and has taught criminal justice at Mt. Hood Community College for 22 years.

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