Steve Stafstrom
Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Connecticut became one of just a handful of states to restrict police from lying to minor suspects last week when Gov. Ned Lamont signed legislation making confessions secured using deceptive interrogation tactics largely inadmissible in court. 

The bill passed the Senate on party lines and the House on a tight 80-70 vote before the end of the legislative session. Beginning in October, state law will presume that the confessions of people under 18 years-old are involuntary if police used deceptive tactics like lying about evidence, the law, or making misleading promises in exchange for leniency. 

The new law follows similar policies adopted over the last several years in states like California, Delaware, Illinois, Oregon and Utah. Most states permit police to present false information during interrogations under a 1969 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. 

Proponents of curtailing the practice argue that lying to suspects, especially those under 18, often produces false confessions and wrongful convictions. 

“We are protecting not just suspects but, frankly, are protecting victims from basically thinking that the right person who committed the crime has been charged,” Rep. Steve Stafstrom, a Bridgeport Democrat who co-chairs the Judiciary Committee, said during a floor debate last month. 

The bill proved controversial in the House, where 16 majority Democrats joined all Republicans in voting against the policy. Rep. Greg Howard, a Republican and detective with the Stonington Police Department, argued there were limited circumstances when police should be permitted to deceive suspects in order to expose faults in their testimony. 

“Police officers in this state are not trained to go into an interrogation to get a confession. It’s very clear about that,” he said. “Police officers in this state are trained to go in and try to uncover the truth, whatever that truth may be and sometimes it involves misrepresenting facts in order to get to the actual truth.” 

Connecticut’s new law includes a process by which information deemed inadmissible can be readmitted if the prosecutors can offer “clear and convincing evidence” that the admission was not secured by deception and the tactics used did not undermine the reliability of the suspect’s statements.