Youth Services Law

Showing 2 posts in Criminal Law.

More Research about False Memories

Posted In Criminal Law, Mental Health Research

BrainResearchers recently found it surprisingly easy to convince a group of adults that they had committed crimes in early adolescence.  The study, recently published in Psychological Science,  had interviewers use suggestive memory-retrieval techniques when questioning the study subjects.  After three interviews, 70% of the people had false memories of having committed crimes.  Their reports actually had "all the same kinds of complex details as real memories," according to the lead researcher.

This study had a small sample size, but is is a fascinating addition to the research on this topic.  The forensic interviewing community has known about the importance of neutral questions when interviewing children, but there have been few studies suggesting the same precautions when interviewing adults.  If subsequent studies replicate these findings, and if investigators can plant inaccurate memories in the minds of innocent people, then we will need to change all sorts of interviewing protocols.  At the very least, attorneys now have another means of challenging interviews that produce confessions.

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Sex Offender Laws that Do Not Protect Children

Posted In Criminal Law, Mental Health Research, Public Policy

Simplified man Stop You on a No SignIt is not often that I use “California” and “sensible policy” in the same sentence, but the California Supreme Court has issued a ground-breaking (and sensible) decision invalidating restrictions on where sex offenders can live.  The court reviewed “Jessica’s Law,” a statute prohibiting any registered sex offender from residing within 2000 feet of “any public or private school, or park where children regularly gather.”  The plaintiffs did not challenge the statue on its face, but only the state’s blanket application of it to registered sex offenders on parole.  The court found that one-size-fits-all application to be unconstitutional, but noted that the state retains the authority, based on other statutes, to fashion special parole conditions for sex offenders.

Contrary to some claims, this decision is not a setback for child abuse prevention, simply because residency-based restrictions do not prevent child abuse.  As Dr. David Finkelhor, one of the giants in the field of child abuse prevention, wrote in 2009, restrictions on where sex offenders live “have been adopted without any evidence about their efficacy.”  Furthermore, “[t]he logic model behind these restrictions appears fundamentally flawed, given that most sexual abuse occurs within established family and social networks and also that motivated offenders, wherever they happen to live, can go where they wish in search of victims.”

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