July 16, 2013: State Bar Association Calls for Law Requiring Recording of Custodial Interrogations

New York State Bar Association President David M. Schraver commended Governor Andrew Cuomo for his efforts in support of a long-standing legislative priority of the association -- recording of custodial interrogations.

The governor Monday announced an additional $1 million in state grants for localities to purchase, install or upgrade equipment to videotape interrogations. 

The State Bar has been at the forefront of the effort to require the use of video recordings of interrogations to improve the criminal justice system, first securing funding for recording equipment in the 2006 state budget and then collaborating with several district attorneys to implement a pilot project.

"Currently, law enforcement agencies videotape interrogations on a voluntary basis," said Schraver of Rochester (Nixon Peabody). "What is needed is a state law that requires videotaping of custodial interrogations. The State Bar long has advocated the mandatory videotaping of interrogations. We urge the governor and Legislature to enact such a law."

"Funding the purchase of video recording equipment will provide law enforcement agencies with a powerful tool.  But if it is not used, it cannot exonerate the innocent or convict the guilty," he added.

The practice of electronically recording custodial interrogations has been on the increase. The benefits of recording interviews are obvious and the value is widely recognized. Recording ensures the integrity of the fact-finding process by recording accurately the full course of the interrogation. It reduces false denials of incriminating admissions or claims that such admissions were obtained by coercion or intimidation. 

Recording also improves the quality of interrogations through monitoring by supervisors, use of recordings for training purposes, and the use of taped admissions to confront suspected accomplices. Finally, recording helps prevent the mistreatment of detainees and reduces the likelihood that they can lodge false complaints of physical or psychological abuse. 

On December 14, 2010, then Acting Division of Criminal Justice Services Commissioner Sean Byrne was joined by State Bar leaders when he announced that his agency and the New York State Bar Association
had provided more than $1.6 million in funding to support video recording of custodial interrogations and that the federal government would provide an additional $400,000 grant.

The New York State Bar Association, with 76,000 members, is the largest voluntary state bar association in the country. It was founded in 1876.

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Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director, Media Services and Public Affairs
Lbang-jensen@nysba.org
518-487-5530