Maryland High Court Rules Induced Statements Inadmissible

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in a January opinion, Hill v. State, that when an interrogating police officer’s misleading discussion with a suspect was an improper inducement, and that any statement derived from that inducement had to be suppressed. In Hill, the interrogating officer told Hill, a suspect in a sex abuse case, that the victim’s family did not want to see the suspect get into any trouble, and “only wanted an apology.” The Court determined that, considering the officer’s statements it is “reasonable for a layperson in [the position of the suspect] to infer from the officer’s statement that the victim’s family, upon receipt of an apology, would either recommend to the prosecutor that criminal charges not be pursued or decline to participate in any prosecution.” Such Thus, the Court ruled that the statements Hill made in reliance on that inducement were improperly admitted, and granted the defendant a new trial.

The experienced Maryland criminal law attorneys at Brassel, Alexander & Rice know the intricacies of the Maryland Rules of Evidence, including how to protect individuals facing criminal charges from the use of inadmissible evidence at trial.

In the Hill case, the investigating officer brought Hill into the station for questioning, and informed him that the victim’s family merely wanted an apology. The officer suggested that the family would not press charges if Hill would provide that apology. In response to the officer’s statements, Hill wrote a letter to the victim that included an apology. Prior to trial, the trial court ruled that, the officer did not improperly induce Hill to provide the statement because there was not a specific threat, promise, or inducement of state action, or a statement that there would not be any charges.

The Court of Appeals disagreed and reversed Hill’s conviction. The Court explained that there are two factors for consideration. First, there is the objective determination as to “whether a reasonable person in the position of the accused would be moved to make an inculpatory statement upon hearing the officer’s declaration.” If that prong is met, the Court must then determine “whether there exists a causal nexus between the inducement and the statement.” The Court pointed out that when a criminal defendant claims that his statements were improperly induced, the State must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the statements were not induced. In this case, the Court found that a reasonable person in Hill’s position would believe that if he provided an apology, he would be less likely to face criminal charges for the conduct for which he was apologizing. Therefore, the statements Hill made were inadmissible.

Police officers frequently walk a thin line in their questioning of criminal suspects, sometimes venturing into improper inducement of confessions. An experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney will protect the constitutional rights of criminal defendants when faced with