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Should the Police be Allowed to Coerce Minors into Confession?

In Modesto, the family of a mentally challenged teen filed a federal lawsuit against the Modesto Police Department for coercing the teen into a false confession. 1canstockphoto0322598.jpg

In 2012, the teen, Anthony Nunez, was arrested as a suspect in a drive-by shooting. 2 On the night of his arrest, the police were informed that Nunez was mentally challenged and could not fully comprehend police interrogations. 3 Nonetheless, the police interrogated Nunez for several hours and denied him access to his mother and deprived him of food and water until he confessed to the crime. 4 At trial, Nunez was found not guilty after the judge ruled his confession was inadmissible because it was coerced. 5

The Nunez family is now seeking compensation from the Modesto Police Department for taking advantage of their son’s diminished mental capacity. 6

Minors and Police Interrogations – What You Need to Know

The case of Anthony Nunez serves as an example of the police abusing their power to extract false confessions. According to the California Innocence Project, the two most vulnerable groups susceptible to making false confessions are minors under the age of 14 and those with mental illness or low IQ. 7

The longer a person is interrogated, the more likely he/she is to falsely admit guilt. 8 A review of 125 wrongful conviction cases showed that 84% of false confessions occurred after more than six hours of questioning. 9

If your child is suspected of a crime or arrested by the police, it is important to tell your child to not speak to police without a parent or an attorney present. A common interrogation technique used by police is the “Reid Technique.” 10 If a police officer believes that a suspect is innocent, the officer will only ask non-accusatory questions. 11 If an officer believes the suspect is guilty, then the officer will conduct an accusatory interrogation with the goal of getting the suspect to admit guilt. 12 An officer’s judgment in determining the guilt of a suspect can be flat-out wrong and officer’s discretion in an interrogation gives him/her great power that can be abused. 13

Interrogations of Minors in Homicide Cases Must be Videotaped in California

In the state of California, interrogations of underage suspects in homicide cases must be videotaped. With the concern that certain interrogation tactics prey upon the innocence or naivety of minors, the videotaping of police interrogation of minors is intended to protect minors’ rights and expose any illegal tactics used by the police. This law should also improve the credibility and reliability of genuine confessions extracted by the police. Videotaping confessions ensures accuracy, gives parties a clear record of the suspect’s statements, and allows the court to conduct a better review of all the evidence. Thus, this interrogation method should not be limited only to homicide cases. Rather, it should be expanded to all other types of serious crimes.

Call Wallin & Klarich Today

If you or a loved one has a child accused of a crime, it is critical that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience in successfully defending minors charged with crimes in Southern California. Our attorneys will fight to get you the best possible outcome in your case.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich Southern California criminal defense attorney near you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (888) 280-6839 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.


1. [Parents sue Calif. police, say son’s confession was coerced, May 7, 2014, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/parents-sue-california-police-say-sons-confession-coerced/]
2. [Id. 1]
3. [Id. 1]
4. [Id. 1]
5. [Id. 1]
6. [Id. 1]
7. [ False Confessions, http://californiainnocenceproject.org/issues-we-face/false]
8. [Ibid. 7]
9. [Ibid. 7]
10. [Ibid. 7]
11. [Ibid. 7]
12. [Ibid. 7]
13. [Ibid. 7]

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.