State v. A.M.

The ACLU-NJ participated as amicus curiae in a case that addresses how a court should evaluate instances where police officers fail to elicit critical information when seeking to have defendants waive constitutional rights. Our position is that because the State bears a “heavy burden” of establishing that waivers are knowingly entered into, courts cannot excuse the State for its failure to develop a robust record proving the validity of the waiver. In the interrogation at issue, police properly advised the Defendant of his rights, but failed to properly obtain a waiver of his rights. The trial court determined that had Defendant not understood the waiver language he would have asked clarifying questions. We argue that this constitutes improper burden shifting and erroneous assumptions about how people who are illiterate or have limit literacy tend to respond when asked to read. The case also addresses the role of interpreters in interrogations.

Status

The New Jersey Supreme Court heard oral argument on January 15, 2019. The decision is pending.

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