A new law in Michigan has gained the support of prosecutors and defense attorneys who believe the law will help prevent wrongful convictions and improve the quality of the state's criminal justice system.
The new law requires law enforcement to video and audio record interviews with people arrested for major crimes in Michigan. The law stipulates that anyone arrested for a crime that has a punishment of 20 years or more needs to have their police interview and interrogation recorded by the police agency. This includes recording if and when a person waives his or her Miranda rights.
The law says that police agencies must have the proper equipment to record video and audio of suspects arrested for serious crimes. Larger police departments in Michigan already have the proper equipment, but smaller departments may still be trying to get the appropriate equipment to adhere to the law.
Supporters of the new law include many criminal defense attorneys as well as prosecutors. They support the law because they say it will help the criminal justice system by preventing wrongful convictions and mistrials based off misinterpreted statements or coercion during police interrogations.
While many support the new law, some defense attorneys argue that the penalties for police departments that violate the law are not harsh enough. Under the law, if a police department violates the requirement to record a defendant's interview, the prosecution will tell the jury that the police did not follow the law and the jury can take that into consideration when evaluating the evidence presented against the defendant.
Defense attorneys say that this statement should not be allowed during a trial, especially since defense attorneys are already able to tell the jury that the police did not videotape the interview and that any evidence or statements presented may not be accurate since the police do not have video proof to back up their claims against the defendant. Opponents of this part of the law say that the penalty needs to be more severe to really impact and stop coercion by police officers during interrogations.
While not everyone agrees to the stipulations of the new law, defense attorneys and prosecutors agree that it is a step in the right direction to prevent wrongful convictions in the future.
Source: The Macomb Daily, "Michigan law to require cops to video record interviews," Jameson Cook, March 24, 2013
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