Boston, Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney, Kevin J. Mahoney, Explains the Rules Governing Admissibility of a “Confession”
In my experience as Massachusetts criminal defense attorney, most people know they have the right to remain silent during an encounter with the police. Nevertheless, most people choose to speak with the police anyway, usually because they are anxious to persuade the detectives of their innocence or fear the detectives will conclude that they are guilty if they refuse to submit to questioning. While it is no small task to convince a judge that a confession was involuntary, it can be done, especially where detectives are aggressive, continue to question a suspect after he has asserted his right to counsel, or lacked the mental capacity to understand his rights.
In Massachusetts, if the defense challenges the voluntariness of a defendant’s confession, the court must hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the confession was voluntarily. If the court rules the confession admissible, it must instruct the jurors that they may consider the defendant’s statement as evidence only if they, too, first determine, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the statement was made “voluntarily, freely and rationally.” This is known as the Massachusetts “humane practices” rule.
In deciding whether a confession was voluntary, the jury may take into account all the surrounding circumstances, including:
- The nature of any conversations the police had with the defendant;
- The duration of questioning;
- Where and when the statement was made;
- The defendant’s physical and mental condition;
- The defendant’s intelligence, age, education, experience, and personality; and
- Whether the defendant’s confession was recorded.
If an alleged confession is the result of a custodial interrogation (that is, an interrogation conducted while the suspect is being detained), the interrogation should be recorded in its entirety. In fact, if the prosecution cannot present at least an audiotape of the complete interrogation, then the judge may advise the jury that (a) the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court prefers that interrogations be recorded and (b) because of the absence of any recording, the jury should weigh the alleged confession with great caution and care. If a confession’s voluntariness is in dispute, the judge should also advise the jury that the absence of a recording allows them to conclude that the prosecution failed to prove voluntariness beyond a reasonable doubt.
Contact Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer, Kevin J. Mahoney
A criminal trial is a complicated matter, with the highest of stakes. You cannot leave it to chance. An experienced Boston criminal defense attorney can review the facts surrounding your alleged “confession” and take appropriate steps to protect your rights. If you would like to meet with me for a free initial consultation, please call 617-492-0055 to schedule an appointment.
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