Lorenzo Montoya

Lorenzo Montoya, 14, during a taped interrogation by the Denver Police Department in 2000. During the interrogation, Montoya falsely confessed to a murder and was later sentenced to life in prison. He was exonerated on DNA evidence after serving more than 13 years. 

Colorado legislators have brought back a bill that seeks to make it more difficult to admit in court statements made by juveniles under interrogation when law enforcement officers use "deception."

House Bill 1042, introduced on the first day of this year’s session, makes an underage person’s statements presumably inadmissible if law enforcement knowingly uses "deception," which the measure defines as knowingly communicating "false facts or beliefs." The latter may include lying about evidence against the juvenile or offering leniency without authorization.

To overcome the presumption of inadmissibility, prosecutors have to prove before trial by a preponderance of evidence – meaning something is more likely true than not – that the juvenile made a statement "voluntarily despite the deception."

The measure, if signed into law, would require law enforcement to record all interrogations of juveniles in custody. The state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Board would also have to develop a training program for law enforcement officers on the law’s implementation. The training would be paid for by the state.

The bill’s Democratic sponsors, Rep. Jennifer Bacon and Sen. Julie Gonzales, also introduced a version of the bill last year. It passed both chambers in 2022, but died in the waning minutes of the session after House sponsors said they could not support a watered down version of the bill.

When last year’s bill passed in the Senate mainly along party lines, it encountered opposition from the law enforcement coalitions, such as the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, the state Fraternal Order of Police, County Sheriffs of Colorado and the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council. Organizations supporting the bill included the state’s criminal defense bar association, the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, the Interfaith Alliance and Together Colorado.

Colorado Politics reporter Hannah Metzger contributed to this report.

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