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Criminal defense counsel may file to suppress coerced confessions

Louisiana, like all other states, is seeing an increase of criminal charges and convictions of persons in authority for a variety of crimes. Recently, there has been a flood of law enforcement officers being arrested on various charges relating to their treatment of suspects, including those arrested for alleged traffic or DUI offenses. There have always been a small number of cases where narcotics officers are dealing in drugs and addicted to boot. One of the most curious types of offenses is the arsonist who works for the local fire department; this situation puzzles and amazes both prosecutors and criminal defense counsel alike.  

The Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal recently arrested a female volunteer firefighter and charged her with five total counts of arson. The charges included three counts of simple arson and two counts of aggravated arson. With arson normally being a felony, she may face a lengthy period of imprisonment without credible mitigating circumstances or a viable defense. That may be unlikely because the authorities say that the suspect confessed to setting all three fires.

One fire occurred on the property of an abandoned mobile home. A second occurred on the property of an abandoned home and the third occurred at an Alexandria hotel. Although the subject purportedly confessed to the offenses, criminal defense counsel may decide to challenge the confessions if they were not voluntarily given.

Under federal and Louisiana constitutional law, a confession may be suppressed if obtained by unreasonable police procedures. That is why the police are always better served by reading the suspect the full panoply of Miranda rights prior to initiating interrogation. Deception and misrepresentation by the police that are designed to prevent the suspect from contacting his or her criminal defense counsel is considered generally to taint the ensuing interrogation and any confessions given. Under such circumstances, counsel will attempt to file a motion to suppress the evidence for presentation to the trial court.  

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