Issue Brief: Electronic Recording of Custodial Interrogations

  • October 01, 2007

Electronic recording of custodial interrogations has emerged as a powerful innovation and fact-finding tool for both sides of the criminal justice system.  A central objective of the criminal justice system is to accurately ascertain the facts surrounding criminal offenses in order to correctly identify perpetrators so that they may be punished. The virtue of electronic recording of custodial interrogations, and its strength as a public policy, lies not only in its ability to help guard against false confessions, but also in its ability to develop strong evidence to help convict the guilty.
Confessions are often viewed as the most powerful evidence at trial, and can even overcome other types of evidence pointing to the defendant's innocence, such as forensic proof.  Studies suggest that false confessions played a significant role in 15% - 25% of wrongful conviction cases.  Electronic recording of custodial interrogations, however, provides an objective record with which to effectively evaluate the voluntariness and reliability of a suspect's statement.

For more information on this topic, see these other reports from The Justice Project Education Fund's National Agenda for Reform:  Expanded Discovery in Criminal CasesEyewitness Identification and Jailhouse Snitch Testimony.