NACDL - Tennessee - Recording Interrogations Compendium

Tennessee - Recording Interrogations Compendium

Information on the policy and history of recording custodial interrogations in Tennessee.

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Summary

Tennessee has no statute or court rule requiring recording of custodial interrogations.

Supreme Court Ruling

In State v. Godsey, 60 S.W.3d 759, 772 (2001), the Supreme Court of Tennessee said:

There can be little doubt that electronically recording custodial interrogations would reduce the amount of time spent in court resolving disputes over what occurred during interrogation. As a result, the judiciary would be relieved of much of the burden of resolving these disputes. In light of the slight inconvenience and expense associated with electronically recording custodial interrogations, sound policy considerations support its adoption as a law enforcement practice. However, ‘[t]he determination of public policy is primarily a function of the legislature.’ [Citing cases]

Discussion

In April, 2002, the General Assembly passed a joint resolution directing the Law Enforcement Advisory Council (LEAC) “to study and evaluate all issues relevant to the electronic recording of custodial interrogations of criminal defendants, including current practices and procedures of law enforcement agencies in Tennessee.” (JR 862.)

In 2002, in response to a survey sent by the Comptroller’s Office of Research to all Tennessee law enforcement agencies, 43 percent of the 400 which responded report that they electronically record custodial interrogations.  L.H. Selva & W.L. Shulman, Legislative Prerogative on Judicial Fiat:  Mandating Electronic Recording of Stationhouse Interrogations in Tennessee, 1 Tenn. Journal of Law & Policy, 386, 429 (2014)

In May 2003, LEAC reported on its study and evaluation, including concerns about cost; investigative effectiveness (“…balancing the evidentiary value of the tape against the potential that the equipment would intimidate a defendant and prevent a confession from occurring”); lack of policy and procedure; and creation of statutory right (“As a general rule, the Council feels that the Federal and State constitutions provide sufficient protection of defendants’ civil rights, and the creation of additional statutory rights is unnecessary”).  The report concluded:

At present, the point that is clearest to the members of the [LEAC] is that enough concerns have been identified about an absolute requirement to record all custodial interrogations to make immediate action on the point without further review premature. The Council…urges the Committees to delay action on the matter until such time as the pros and cons can be more fully developed…

Miscellaneous

Departments we have identified that presently record:

Bell Meade Franklin Knoxville
Benton CS Gallatin Loudon CS
Blount CS Goodlettsville Montgomery CS
Bradley CS Hamilton CS Murfreesboro
Brentwood Hendersonville Nashville
Bristol Highway Patrol Shelby CS
Chattanooga Knox CS White CS
Cleveland