New Law Will Help Provide Critical Evidence and Prevent False Confessions
Adopted Model Policy Will Help Guide Law Enforcement Agencies
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the law requiring law enforcement agencies to video record custodial interrogations with individuals accused of serious crimes, including homicides and violent felony sex offenses, is now in effect. The law, originally passed as part of the Governor's landmark criminal justice reforms in 2017, will help ensure the reliability of evidence that is later presented at trial and guard against false confessions.
"Recording interrogations can be critical in helping convict the guilty, free the wrongly accused and uphold faith and confidence in our criminal justice system," Governor Cuomo said. "I'm proud that this hard-fought reform is now in effect, bringing us one step closer to a more fair and more just New York for all."
As of April 1, law enforcement investigators are required to video record interrogations of individuals accused of most serious non-drug felonies. The requirement applies only to custodial interrogations at police stations, correctional facilities, prosecutor's offices, and similar holding areas. Failure to record interrogations in applicable cases could result in a court determining that a confession is inadmissible as evidence, according to the new law. The change to the Criminal Procedure Law was adopted by the state Legislature along with other critical reforms proposed by the Governor as part of the FY 2017-18 state budget.
In advance of the new law taking effect, the New York State Municipal Police Training Council amended a 2013 model policy outlining how law enforcement agencies should properly record custodial interrogations. The Council, with its members appointed by Governor Cuomo, designs and approves model policies to help guide law enforcement agencies. The Office of Public Safety at the state Division of Criminal Justice Services staffs the Council and assists with developing model policies.
The model policy includes the steps law enforcement must take in advance of and during an interrogation, including recording Miranda warnings; finding an age-appropriate setting if juvenile is being interviewed; camera positioning; date and time stamping of the footage; identifying all parties present for the recording; and documenting any equipment challenges that arise. The model policy also discusses how to properly handle footage resulting from an interrogation.
The model policy is intended as guidance for law enforcement agencies as they adopt ones tailored to their specific needs. The policy was developed with input from a wide variety of stakeholders, included the District Attorney's Association of the State of New York, the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, the New York State Police, the New York City Police Department and the New York State Sheriff's Association.
DCJS Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green said, "As a former prosecutor, I have seen how invaluable a properly video-recorded interrogation can be in securing a conviction or preventing unjustified prosecutions or wrongful convictions. This new law, and the amended model policy, will further enhance the integrity of our criminal justice system."
Innocence Project Policy Director Rebecca Brown said, "The Innocence Project applauds the implementation of the law requiring the electronic recording of interrogation s in certain violent, felony crimes. This is a critical reform that offers robust protections to the innocent by creating a clear record of what transpired in the interrogation room. The Innocence Project also supports careful study of implementation efforts to assess the degree of uniformity in practice; the feasibility of expanding the crime categories for which recording is required over time; and the reliability of various interrogation methods. In this way, the tremendous reform effort that has just begun to take hold can continue to be improved upon in the future."
Oneida County District Attorney Scott D. McNamara, president of the District Attorneys' Association of the State of New York, said, "We appreciate all the work of the Governor and the Legislature that led to this bill being signed into law as well as efforts to provide adequate funding for costs related to recording interrogations, storage and equipment. Recording interrogations ensures that statements are properly obtained and helps promote the public's trust in our law enforcement processes. We also appreciate the efforts of the Municipal Training Council to update the policies and protocols concerning videotaped interrogations. This will help law enforcement and prosecutors understand the recent changes to the criminal procedure law when it comes to recording interrogations."
Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York State has also helped to ensure all 62 counties have at least one agency capable of video recording interrogations. Since 2011, New York has provided more than $4.15 million to approximately 365 police agencies and prosecutors' offices across the state for the purchase and installation of video-recording equipment.
The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including law enforcement training; collection and analysis of statewide crime data; maintenance of criminal history information and fingerprint files; administrative oversight of the state's DNA databank, in partnership with the New York State Police; funding and oversight of probation and community correction programs; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state's Sex Offender Registry.