Kansas has a statute requiring recording of custodial interrogations.
Citation: Kan. Stat. § 22-4620 (2017).
General rule: Kansas’ statute requires “[a]ll law enforcement agencies . . . adopt a detailed, written policy requiring electronic recording of any custodial interrogation conducted at a place of detention.” § 22-4620(a). The policies must include a requirement that a recording be made of an entire custodial interrogation when the interrogation concerns a homicide or felony sex offense. § 22-4620(e).
Circumstances that excuse recording: Exceptions to Kansas’ requirement that custodial interrogations be recorded include, but are not limited to, the following: there was an equipment malfunction; the suspect asked that the interrogation go unrecorded; there were more interrogations taking place than the law enforcement agency could feasibly record with their available equipment; the statement in question was made spontaneously; the statement in question was made in response to routine arrest processing questions; the statement in question was made when the officer was unaware of the suspect’s involvement of a covered offense; or exigent circumstances were involved. § 22-4620(e).
Consequences of unexcused failure to record: If a law enforcement agency fails to record a custodial interrogation in accordance with this statute, then “[d]uring trial, the officer may be questioned . . . regarding [the] violation.” § 22-4620(f). However, “[l]ack of an electronic recording shall not be the sole basis for suppression of the interrogation or confession.” Id.
Additional notes: Kansas’ electronic recording statute directs Kansas law enforcement agencies to “collaborate with the county or district attorney in the appropriate jurisdiction regarding the contents of written policies required by this section.” § 22-4620(b). In 2017, the Kansas City District Attorneys Association’s Best Practices Committee published a draft of a Model Policy on Electronic Recording of Interrogations, which states:
Law enforcement agencies are encouraged to customize these Protocols to meet their regional needs. This policy is non-binding upon agencies and is meant to serve as a guide in developing a department’s individual policy.
The model policy calls for audio visual recording, “when deemed appropriate, in accordance with law and agency policy.”
Kansas’ statute requiring law enforcement to record custodial interrogations came nearly twenty years after Floyd Bledsoe was wrongfully convicted of murdering his sister-in-law. Floyd’s brother, Tom Bledsoe, confessed to the crime in 1999, gave police the murder weapon, and told them where to find the victim’s body. However, Tom then recanted his confession and claimed that Floyd committed the murder. Floyd was exonerated by DNA evidence after he spent sixteen years in prison. Regarding Kansas’ new recording requirement, Floyd said: “If this law had been in effect and the interrogations in my case had been recorded, it could have prevented me from spending sixteen years in prison for a crime that I didn’t commit. It’s wonderful that Kansas is moving forward on criminal justice reforms that would protect other innocent people like me from wrongful conviction.” Innocence Project Staff, New Kansas Law Signed Requiring the Recording of Interrogations to Prevent Wrongful Convictions (May 8, 2017) https://www.innocenceproject.org/new-ks-law-signed-requiring-recording-interrogations-prevent-wrongful-convictions/.
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