California, probably home to more law enforcement officers than any other state in the country, became the fifth state legislature to require that custodial interrogations of suspects be electronically recorded, following Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, and Wisconsin (and the District of Columbia. The bill has passed both Houses of the General Assembly and only awaits the Governor's signature to make it into law. No celebrating yet as there may be a pitched fight to get the Governor to sign. The text of the bill, which does not impose any consequences for the failure to record, is below. Nevertheless, Calfiornia is a bellwether state in criminal justice circles and this new law will go to great lengths to make the interrogation process more transparent.
An act to add Section 859.5 to the Penal Code, relating to
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
SECTION 1. It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this act to require the creation of an electronic record of an entire custodial interrogation in order to eliminate disputes in court as to what actually occurred during the interrogation, thereby improving prosecution of the guilty while affording protection to the innocent.
SEC. 2. Section 859.5 is added to the Penal Code , to read:
859.5. (a) Law enforcement officials who interview or interrogate persons accused of, arrested for, or charged with a crime shall institute procedures whereby the interview or interrogation is simultaneously recorded and preserved by means of videotape, videodisc, or any other means of preserving audio and video.(b) For the purposes of this section, "law enforcement official" includes any officer of the police, sheriff, highway patrol, or district attorney, and any peace officer included in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830).