Washington Drug Forfeitures – RCW 69.50.505

civil drug forfeitureWashington State has some of the worst civil drug forfeiture laws in the country. The Government can take property it believes was part of a drug transaction. Once the government takes your property, you have the burden of proving that the property was legal acquired and unrelated to a drug crime. That’s right, you have to prove that you didn’t break the law. If you don’t prove your innocence, then you don’t get your property back.

This blog will discuss forfeitures and defenses. I’ll lay out the law by giving some examples of cases our firm is currently fighting.

Washington State Civil Drug Forfeiture Law

RCW 69.50.505 governs civil drug forfeitures. Under this law, State police agencies can seize money earned by selling drugs, as well as money intended to be used to engage in a drug transaction. The police then get to keep the majority of the money they take. Cops can also take cars and other property used to commit a crime or that makes it easier to commit a crime.

We currently represent a gentleman who was visiting a house when police arrived to search for a marijuana grow operation. Our middle aged client had a clean criminal history, and hadn’t broken any laws when he was arrested. The local police department still took his $900 claiming that it was related to the alleged marijuana grow. They also seized his phone and personal belongings.

Under RCW 69.50.505, the government may seize “proceeds” of drug dealing. The Police in the above case simply believed that since the older guy was around people who broke the law, the money he had in his pocket must have come from drug dealing. We now have the burden of proving that our client earned the money before he ever came to visit Washington State. That’s right, we have to prove that the police theft from our client was wrong. Sadly, this happens every single day as police seek to take as much money and property as possible. After all, they directly benefit from these seizures when they keep the cash and sell the items that they’ve taken.

Removing Civil Drug Forfeitures To District Court

You have to properly move a civil drug forfeiture to District Court, or the same police agency that originally took your money will decide whether police can keep your money. Wrap your head around that. The police take property and then decide whether they did it properly. Guess how often they admit that they were wrong. That’s right, cops second guessing themselves is rarer than the Mariners in a playoff game. Forfeiture victims who want to avoid this additional injustice need to get their cases away from the police and into a court with a judge.

The removal is relatively easy with a Petition to Remove and a Summons and Complaint that identifies the wrongfully forfeited property. Of course, you’ll also have to pay the Court’s filing fee and serve the police, and in our case the city mayor. You must file and serve your pleadings within 45 days of challenging the forfeiture.

Defenses to Civil Drug Forfeiture

Wining a civil drug forfeiture case is tough, but possible. Forfeiture attorneys generally attack these thefts both procedurally and factually. Procedurally, the rules are very strict, and even minor errors by police will result in the return of property.

Police must initially prove that seized money or property was illegally acquired, or would be used to commit a crime. This can be difficult for police to show. If cops fail, then they must return the seized property.

Unfortunately, if police make the initial showing of probable cause to believe the seized property is related to a crime, then the forfeiture victim has to show enough facts to prove that the property was legally obtained and wasn’t going to be used in a crime.

Police caught a recent client with a bunch of money while visiting friends here in Washington. Local police couldn’t believe the the client could have tens of thousands of dollars unless they were committing crimes. Fortunately, our client proved that the money was legal. We convinced a judge that simply having a lot of cash doesn’t make someone a criminal.

Property Forfeited

Police agencies can forfeit any type of property from cash to real estate. We most often see officers and agent seize cash, cars, trucks, boat’s, planes, motorcycles, and recreational vehicles. Less common are civil drug forfeitures of houses and real estate. A drug task force recently seized several homes and buildings following marijuana raids. At least one of the homeowners was unaware of the illegal activities going on in his house. That is a defense to forfeiture and he should get his house back.

Forfeiture victims have important rights, and a short time frame in which to act. We can help, but time is of the essence, so call Durflinger Oliver today, 253-683-4180.

Michael Bennet Arrest

A Superstar Detained

By now, we’ve all seen video of Seattle Seahawks star, Michael Bennett, running from a shooter at a Las Vegas casino. Opinions generally fall into one of two camps. The first is that Bennett shouldn’t have run from police, and the other is that when someone might be shooting at you, instinct takes over and you run.

On August 27, 2017, a gunman opened fire at a Vegas nightclub. Michael Bennett heard the gunshots and immediately ran out of the club for his own safety.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officers arrested Bennett as he ran for cover during the shooting. The officer drew his weapon, pointed it at Bennett and ordered the NFL player to the ground. Another officer pinned Bennet to the ground with his knee while forcefully handcuffing him.

Bennett remained calm, which is remarkable considering the situation. He referred to the officer as “sir” and continued to ask the officer what he had done and why he was being detained. There were hundreds of people running from the club and fleeing the scene, but it appears that the muscular, black athlete was the only individual detained by officers.

What Reasonable Suspicion?

According to reports, the police did not have a description of the shooter at the time, so it appears Bennett was detained for no other reason than being a large black man. Those on the other side point to officer training in identifying suspicious persons. It’s not yet clear why police targeted Bennet.

This incident raises many questions. Was the officer justified in his use of force? There was no description of the shooter, so why did officers detain Michael Bennett? Did officers arrest anyone else running from the club? 

Unfortunately, we may never get the proper answers to these questions. The officers who detained Bennett wore body cameras, which would have been helpful. Unfortunately, they apparently disabled their body cameras, so there is no video of the event.

Know Your Rights

You have rights if the police detain you:

  • You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, SAY SO OUT LOUD
  • You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of your person, vehicle, or your home
  • If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave
  • You have the right to a lawyer. Ask for an attorney as soon as possible, and do not speak to police without an attorney
  • Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights

Here’s what to do when police stop you:

  • Stay calm and be polite
  • Do not interfere with or obstruct the police officer(s)
  • Do not lie or give false statements or documents
  • Remember the details of your encounter with the officer

If you’ve been detained or arrested, the experienced defense attorneys at Durflinger Oliver & Associates can help. Call today to schedule your free consultation, 253-683-4180. Ask about our military discount and convenient payment plans.

Speak Up To Remain Silent!

Miranda

You have to demand to remain silent.

In 2010 the United States Supreme Court ruled that in order to invoke the “right to remain silent”, a person subject to police interrogation must affirmatively sound off. Because the defendant in Berghuis v. Thompkins did not verbally communicate to officers that he wanted to say nothing to them. Hearing nothing, the cops interrogated him for three long hours. Because he didn’t actually ask for an attorney, he didn’t get one, and the questioning continued until he confessed to a crime.

 The reliability of confessions produced from this situation is suspect. Naive, uninformed, and poorly educated people may not understand that they need to clearly invoke their 5th Amendment right in order to stop police questioning. This is a concerning new development in the area of criminal defense.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the court’s ruling a “major retreat” from protections against self-incrimination guaranteed Miranda. “Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent — which counterintuitively requires them to speak,” she said. “At the same time, suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so. Those results, in my view, find no basis in Miranda or our subsequent cases and are inconsistent with the fair-trial principles on which those precedents are grounded.”

If you or anyone you know has been the subject of a criminal investigation, you can trust the experienced former prosecutors and seasoned defense attorneys at Durflinger Oliver & Associates to provide sound legal advice about protecting your constitutional rights. Call today and schedule a free consultation and ask about our military discount and easy payment plans. 


~ Jim Oliver, January 2015

Appeal Your NICS Denial

Gun RightsFinally, there is some great news for people whose Second Amendment (2A) rights were improperly denied. The FBI’s The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) website again has an appeals page. Many firearms owners and hopeful gun purchasers were wrongly denied gun purchases following their NICS check. For the last year, these people had no opportunity to appeal… Until now. If you were denied a purchase, you can appeal your NICS denial.

Halting Gun Sales

In October 2015, NICS’s appeals workers were transferred to other positions within the organization. People who were denied the purchase of a firearm had no recourse. The NRA and other 2A organizations and authorities decried the transfer of employees as a backhanded attempt at preventing legitimate firearms purchases by eligible citizens.

Would be purchasers were out of luck. They could file an appeal, but there were no employees to process the appeal. Those appeals kept rolling in and piling up as frustrated purchases took what steps they could to correct the improper denial of their 2A rights.

Reclaiming Firearms Rights

We’re almost out of the woods now. People who appealed their NICS firearms purchase denial now have a chance at relief. Those who have recently been denied, should feel encouraged to appeal the NICS finding of ineligibility to purchase a gun. Unfortunately, there is still a year and  a half backlog of previously filed appeals.

If you were denied a firearm purchase following your NICS check, there are some things you need to know and do. Make sure that you get any information about the denial that you can. FFLs should give you whatever information they received, which generally isn’t much, but it will help you start the appeal process.

The next thing you’ll want to do is visit the FBI NICS information website here. It’s a pretty easy site to navigate, and it will help you get the information you need to file an appeal. You can definitely start the process on your own, and if you are again denied, you may want to contact an attorney to help you out.

If you have any 2A questions, call the attorneys at Durflinger Oliver & Associates for a free consultation, (253)683-4180.

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Marijuana Arrests, Excessive Sentences

Growing Jail Population

Weed_JointAt least 137,000 men and women are behind bars on simple drug possession charges including marijuana arrests. The ACLU and Human Rights Watch report indicates that nearly two-thirds of these people are locked up in local jails. Most of these inmates have not even been convicted of a crime. They are sitting in a cell because they simply can’t afford to post bail. Many of these people lose months of their lives, their jobs their homes and their possessions.

“It’s been 45 years since the war on drugs was declared and it hasn’t been a success,” said lead author Tess Borden. “Rates of drug use are not down.” Federal figures on drug arrests and drug use over the past three decades tells the story. Drug possession arrests skyrocketed. There were fewer than 200 arrests for every 100,000 people in 1979. By the mid-2000s that 200 number had grown to to more than 500. The drug possession rate has since fallen slightly, according to the FBI, hovering now around 400 arrests per 100,000 people.

Drug Use Continues to Grow

Defenders of harsh drug possession penalties say they’re necessary to deter people from using drugs and protect the public health. This “tough-on-crime” approach has led to a surge in arrest rates over the last three decades. It has also been largely ineffective in preventing drug use.

 Illicit drug use today is more common among Americans age 12 and older than it was in the early 1980s. Federal figures show no correlation between drug possession arrests and rates of drug use during that time. Still, arrests for drug possession continue to make up a significant chunk of modern-day police work.

American “police make more arrests for drug possession than for any other crime,” according to FBI data. “More than one of every nine arrests by state law enforcement is for drug possession”, according to the report. That equates to more than 1.25 million arrests each year. In fact, police make more arrests for marijuana possession alone than for all violent crimes combined.

Treatment Not Jail

The report calls for decriminalizing the personal use and possession of drugs, treating it as a public health matter instead of a criminal one. “Rather than promoting health, criminalization can create new barriers to health for those who use drugs,” the report says. “Criminalization drives drug use underground; it discourages access to emergency medicine, overdose prevention services, and risk-reducing practices such as syringe exchanges.”

The report reinforces its point by noting the lengthy sentences handed down in some states for possession of small amounts of drugs. In Texas, 116 people are currently serving life sentences on charges of simple drug possession. Seven of those people earned their sentences for possessing quantities of drugs weighing between 1 gram and 4 grams, or less than a typical sugar packet. That’s because Texas also has a habitual offender law, allowing prosecutors to seek longer-than-normal sentences for people who have two prior felonies. “In 2015, more than 78 percent of people sentenced to incarceration for felony drug possession in Texas possessed under a gram,” the report found.

Martha McLaughlin
Sr. Associate Attorney
Durflinger Oliver & Associates

Lying Fife Cop Fired

Police Abuse

Lying Fife Cop Fired.

Everyone trusts cops to tell the truth. Everyone except the innocent victim who goes to jail on a cop’s lie, and get’s convicted on a cop’s lie. If you ever face a dirty cop, you better hope there is video evidence.

In a recent Pierce County felony case, video surveillance exposed a dishonest Fife police officer resulting in his termination.  Fife police officer McNaughton, the very same officer in charge of the reserve officer program, lied in his police report about why he arrested a woman.

McNaughton claimed that he stopped a woman based on a traffic infraction. He then claimed that she had been driving without a valid driver’s license (which was one of the charges filed against the defendant), which led to a search incident to her arrest. He claimed that during his search, he discovered drugs in the woman’s possession. She was booked into Pierce County jail under felony charges of Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance. The cops a lot of lies.

The “wrongful arrest” woman told her defense attorney that she had not been driving when the cop accosted her. She was simply sitting in a parked vehicle in a hotel parking lot when the cop started harassing her. As it turns out, the hotel’s video surveillance of the parking lot supported her story. The officer was quietly fired without perjury charges and not surprisingly, no press covered the story.

The question remains, how many other reports did he falsify? Does anyone really get caught the only time they do something shady? McNaughton didn’t know the person he arrested, so he had no particular motivation to lie.  One has to wonder how many other people he subjected to false arrest.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a rare event. In a recent case, a Tacoma police officer claimed that our Army NCO with spotless history had assaulted him. Prosecutors charged our Sergeant with felony assault in the 3rd degree.

The basic facts were that the Sergeant’s buddy was knocked unconscious with a bottle in a bar fight. The Sergeant went back to help his fellow soldier and was arrested. Fortunately, the jury didn’t believe the cop and they acquitted him of all but two simple misdemeanor charges for failure to disperse and disorderly conduct.

When police officers hold themselves above the law, where does a citizen turn to for help? Filing a complaint with the police department won’t get you too far. The police investigate themselves. Remember the cops in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases investigated themselves and found no wrongdoing.

The officer that accused our client of assault has a long history of unlawful use of force complaints, most of which resulted in people with no criminal history being charged with assaulting a cop. The only reason officer McNaughton was fired was because of the video evidence which clearly showed that he was a liar.

It is important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who will listen to you and investigate your case.  We know that some police officers lie and you can trust us to investigate your case in order get you justice. We use Jerry Crow, the investigator who exposed officer McNaughton, as our investigator in all of our criminal cases. Call us today for your free consultation and ask about our military discount and easy payment plans. 

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DUI, DV, Defense Attorney

Natalie Durflinger, Criminal Attorney

 

Natalie Lynn Durflinger is a criminal defense attorney with over 7 years of experience representing defendants in DUI, Criminal Traffic, and misdemeanor cases. Some of the more common charges she defends against are drugs, firearms, assault, DV, and theft. Natalie completed her legal studies at Gonzaga University School of Law where she was a Thomas More Scholar before graduating with Honors in 2007. Natalie is respected by judges, law enforcement officers and deputy prosecutors across the Puget Sound.

Are Sex Offenders Getting Enough Treatment?

sex_offender_therapyOffenders Got Too Little Treatment

Judges in Washington State routinely gave too little treatment to sex offenders. The problem was caused by incorrect sentencing language on a court form. Courts have been relying on that form since 2008. As a result, many sex offenders received reduced community supervision and treatment time for some Washington sex offences.

Government Employees Knew About The Problem

Newly released documents reveal that courts and corrections officers knew about the problem since 2010. They did nothing to correct it. An email between state workers identified the sentencing problem. The issue was also a subject for discssion in a State government meeting. Meeting members were to discuss issues caused by the faulty form.

Courts in some counties used the felony judgment and sentencing form for the Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative (SSOSA) program. The chief aim of the program is to reduce the risk of future criminal behavior. SSOSA is only available for low level offenders who pose little risk ot the community. The program is effective because of the intensive treatment requirements.

Incorrect court form language cut treatment short for some offenders. Not only that, but the improper language reduced SSOSA jail time. That reduction caused officials to improperly calculate the appropriate amount of community supervision for offenders. Although, court officials fixed the form in January, problems remained.

The Department of Corrections, looking for errors, reviewed the sentences of current SSOSA program members. The review identified at least 73 sex offenders who received too little community supervision. The review found 32 other offenders who were supervised for too long. Officials ended monitoring for the latter group as soon as the error was discovered.

Do Police Get Away With Murder?

Unarmed victim

Police shot Charles Kinsey. Video showed him on the ground with raised hands.

Is anyone accountable when police murder? The answer might be no. Washington State formed a task force to reduce law enforcement-involved shootings. The law that protects police officers from criminal charges is dividing task force members. Some believe in law enforcement immunity, others claim it gives police officers a free pass to kill.

The Law Protects Police

A 1986 state law effectively shields police officers from work related murder charges even when they were wrong. Prosecutors cannot charge officers with murder absent a showing of malice or evil intent. The law protects officers who use deadly force even when it’s deemed reckless or negligent, said Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys Executive Secretary, Tom McBride.

Recklessness is when an officer knows that what he is doing puts innocent people at risk, but he takes the action anyway. Imagine a case where an officer empties her gun into a crowd of innocent people just to get one bad guy.

Negligence is where an officer simply didn’t do what a reasonable officer would have done. These scenarios include, for instance, officers shooting people holding cell phones and not weapons. Perhaps the officer should have known better, and should have acted differently.

Currently, it’s not enough to allege that an officer was reckless, or negligent. Prosecutors have to prove that the officer acted with malice. That means that the officer basically intended to do wrong in shooting someone. This can be hard to prove. If an officer simply says that he felt threatened, then no jury is likely to find malice. As a result, officers in Washington State are basically immune from prosecution for wrongful homicides committed on the job.

Advocates Want Protection from Police Murder

Reform advocates on the task force pushed for deleting the malice requirement. Prosecutors could charge reckless or negligent officers if the malice requirement is removed. “The malice requirement is an impossible threshold for prosecutors to meet”, stated a committee member. Additionally, prosecutors and police officers often see themselves as teammates. Prosecutors rarely charge one of their own. Unfortunately, African Americans are often on the losing end of police interactions. They are also more likely to helplessly watch as police officers get away with bad behavior.

An analysis by the Seattle times last year found that between 2005 and 2014 police officers were disproportionately likely to kill members of the black community. Prosecutors brought homicide charges against an officer in only one of 213 shootings. The officer fired his gun through the back window of a car killing the driver. A jury acquitted. They could not find that the officer had acted with malice.

At least one task force member argues that changing the statute and holding officers accountable would build trust between law enforcement and minority communities. Others urged lawmakers to maintain the law as written. The Kennewick Chief of Police, Ken Hohenberg, doesn’t believe that any change in the law would help. Making police more accountable “won’t help reduce violent interactions involving police”, he said. “More police training and better information are the answers to inappropriate violence”, Hohenberg suggested.

A member of the panel representing the Black Law Enforcement Association of Washington, Cynthia Softli, voiced concerns that removing the malice requirement might put officers at risk. Potential criminal charges could distract officers, according to Softli. That distraction might in turn slow officer reactions in dangerous situations.

The task force is made up of lawmakers, representatives of police, community groups and legal organizations. They will recommend changes for lawmakers to consider. A campaign to remove the malice and good faith portions from Washington’s law is gathering signatures in hopes of sending an initiative to the Legislature next year. Supporters of Initiative 873 gathered at the Capitol on Monday to call for change to the malice requirement. They seek greater police accountability.

Some police representatives said that officers should not be punished if they killed someone in good faith. Others said they were concerned that judging good faith can be as subjective as determining malice. No other state has malice or good faith requirements, but a few have subjective standards, said Jeff Robinson, the director of the Center for Justice at the American Civil Liberties Union who made the presentation. Robinson captured attention while showing videos of police killings in other states, including the 2014 fatal shooting of Laquan Mcdonald, 17, in Chicago. McDonald was wielding a knife but walking away from officers when fired. Officer Jason Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times and is facing first-degree murder charges.

 

 

Relax, it’s legal to Drink and Drive

DUI/DWI

It’s okay to drink and drive.

Cops, prosecutors and jurors have forgotten that it’s legal to drink and drive. It is only illegal if you are driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination the two. So go on and have that glass of wine with dinner.

The prevailing attitude begs the question of why everyone is acting like you can’t enjoy a glass of wine with dinner? Police are arresting and prosecutors are charging anyone with DUI who even merely has alcohol on their breath (or the odor of marijuana) whether they are actually impaired or not.

Unfortunately, cops can basically create their own reality with a little help from the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST). Any mistakes made while performing these tests will arm the prosecutor with all the evidence he needs to try and prove that you were impaired, regardless of your BAC. And good luck finding a jury that understands or actually believes that it is legal in Washington State to consume alcohol and drive.

Our office is seeing more and more people charged with DUIs that are well under the legal limit of .08. I have seen BACs as low as .02 being charged as a DUI, with the prosecutor arguing that the individual, who was over the age of 21, was impaired based on bad driving and poor performance on the SFSTs.

I recently represented a Hispanic client who was charged with DUI even though his BAC was only .05. The prosecutor pointed to the fact that he performed the SFTS poorly as proof of impairment. Unfortunately, the client didn’t speak english and could have followed the cops instructions even though he wanted to. Of course, the cop didn’t put the language problems in his report.

Officers routinely go through the SFSTs in court to show how easy they are to perform. What they don’t tell the jury is that they have performed these tests many times and have muscle memory which allows them to perform them well. The average driver has never performed these tests, will be nervous, and will be performing them on the side of the road with varying conditions, all of which will affect performance. I can’t do the SFSTs completely sober. A lot of people have problems with them, but all cops see is a drunk.

DUI patrols are in full force and they are looking for ANY reason to pull you over if you are on the road after 9:00 pm. If a cop pulls you over for an equipment infraction (taillight out) and you refuse to perform the field sobriety tests, it would be very had to charge you with any crime. If you do choose to perform the field sobriety tests, it will be up to the officer to decide whether he thinks you performed poorly. He’s having you do the tests because he thinks you’re drunk. Guess how he’s gonna see you do the tests? I watch in-dash video every day where officers claim that a defendant swayed, lifted his arms for balance or had difficulty walking a straight line, and yet the video shows the opposite. If a cop asks you to do the tests, you need to immediately demand an attorney.

I typically advise my clients to take the BAC at the station but it is important to speak to your attorney prior to taking this test. You have a right to speak with an attorney at this point and you should exercise that right. If you do not have an attorney that you can reach after hours, you can request to speak with a public defender.

You can depend on the experienced former prosecutors and experienced criminal attorneys at Durflinger Oliver to fight to defend you. Call today for your free consultation and ask about our military discount and easy payment plans.

~ Natalie Durflinger, Partner

When Innocent People Confess

For those of you that believe that innocent people do not confess to crimes they did not commit, you may want to take a look at the Brendon Dassey case. A Federal Court overturned his conviction because of a false confession. Police obtained the confession by using coercion, which violated the Constitution.

False Confession

Dassey went to prison because of a false confession.

Brendan Dassey became the topic of arm chair lawyers everywhere when Netflix’s hit series “Making a Murderer” became a worldwide hit. The show followed the investigation and trials of Brendan Dassey and his uncle, Steven Avery for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Police made Brendan Dassey admit that he helped his uncle murder of Teresa Halbach.

Prosecutor in Dassey’s case told jurors that “innocent people don’t confess to crimes they did not commit”. Unfortunately, that statement was not true. There is too much evidence that many innocent people have confessed to crimes that they did not commit.

Studies Document False Confessions

More than 25% of innocent people in prison made false confessions[1].  A big reason for this huge margin of error is that police use improper interrogation techniques. Many people do not realize that police lie about evidence and make false promises and threats. Courts have said that it’s okay for police to lie and threaten.

Brendan Dassey’s investigators used the Reid Method of questioning[2] to get his false confession. Critics argue that the Reid method is unfair and likely to elicit false confessions. Sadly, Police love the Reid Method.

Some People Are More At Risk

Studies have shown that juveniles, and adults below average intelligence or mental health issues are particularly at risk of making false confessions. This truth is nothing new.

In 1966 the U.S. Supreme Court issued its famous Miranda decision. In doing so it singled out the Reid Method for creating a hostile and coercive environment for suspects. The Court held that the Reid Method and similar approaches demand that police inform suspects of their right to remain silent. They must also advise suspects that they have a right to a lawyer during any police interrogation.

Unfortunately, most juveniles and people with below average intelligence or mental illness often do not understand the Miranda warnings and give up their rights.  Investigators then grill these people, often for hours at a time, using the Reid Method and other harsh techniques. Many legal professionals believe that children should always have an attorney present during any police questioning. These experts believe that the recent rash of exonerations is proof that police shouldn’t interrogate children. Police often terrorize children and their families during questioning.

Juvenile False Confession

  • 17 year old Martin Tankleff confessed to murdering both of his parents[3]. Detectives told him that they had found a lock of his hair in his dead mother’s hand. They also lied that his father blamed Tankleff for the murder just before dying. Tankleff eventually believed he must have done it, saying, “My father never lies.” He spent 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. In 2007 a New York State appeals court vacated his conviction. Prosecutors dropped charges in 2008. Tankleff eventually settled a wrongful conviction lawsuit for $3.4 million.
  • 14 year old Michael Crowe confessed to stabbing his 12 year old sister. Police interrogated him without his parents or an attorney[4]. He initially denied any involvement, but officers using the Reid Method broke him down. They lied about evidence and convinced him to confess to the murder and implicate two of his friends. The charges against Michael and friends were later dismissed after police found the actual killer and lifed the dead girl’s DNA from his clothing. The Escondido Police department later agreed to pay $7.5 million in damages for the trauma that they caused the family following the murder of their daughter.
  • 14 year old Lorenzo Montoya confessed to the murder of Emily Johnson in 2000 after he was interrogated without a parent or lawyer[5]. Like Brendon Dassey and Michael Crowe, he initially denied any involvement in the murder but Police successfully used the Reid Method to elicit his confession. Police lied to Lorenzo telling him that they had found evidence linking him to the crime scene. He served 13 years in prison before being exonerated with DNA evidence. He is currently suing the Denver Police Department for 30 million dollars.

Average People Also Confess

Victims of false confessions include average adults. On June 6, 2004, three year old Riley Fox disappeared from her home. Authorities found her body in nearby woods. Someone had sexually assaulted and murdered her[6]. Prosecutors initially charged her father, Kevin Fox, with the child’s murder. They made their charging decision based almost entirely the father’s videotaped confession. That confession was false.

Kevin Fox spent eight months in prison before DNA evidence cleared him of the murder. The actual murderer, Scott Eby, later confessed to killing the girl. The Fox family won $15 million in a law suit. The state is still appealing the verdict.

Unfortunately, stories like Dassey’s and the others mentioned are not anomalies. They are a product of coercive and manipulative interrogation tactics. Tactics that are just as likely to induce a false confession, as elicit a true one. As any defense attorney will tell you, it is nearly impossible to overcome even a false confession at trial. Most jurors simply will not believe that an individual will confess to a crime that they did not commit. A lot of innocent people end up in prison as a result. Likewise, violent predators go free.

Remain Silent

People will be at risk until the coercive and manipulative Reid Method, and others like it, are prohibited. Protect yourself from a false confession by remaining silent and refusing to talk to police. An experienced criminal defense attorney will tell you that the single most important thing you can do if the police want to talk to you it to invoke your right to an attorney. This may seem counter-intuitive as an innocent person has nothing to hide. Tragically, the reality is that the police have been trained to get a confession, and using current interrogation methods they may just get it from you whether you are guilty or not.

[1] http://www.innocenceproject.org/causes/false-confessions-admissions/

[2] “The term ‘Reid Technique’ is a registered trademark of the firm John E. Reid and Associates, which offers training courses in the method they have devised. While the technique is widely used by law-enforcement agencies in North America, it has been criticized for its history of eliciting false confessions”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reid_technique

[3] A Criminal Injustice: A True Crime, a False Confession, and the Fight to Free Marty Tankleff, published by Ballantine Books in 2008

[4] Shattered Justice: A Savage Murder and the Death of Three Families’ Innocence. Avon Books. Philpin, John (July 25, 2006).

[5] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2661337/DNA-evidence-frees-man-prison-14-years-later.html

[6] http://abcnews.go.com/2020/riley-fox-parents-speak-scott-eby-charged-murder/story

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