The Dangers of Not Following Forensic Interview Protocols

Perhaps the most important aspect of these types of cases is the forensic interview of the accuser by law enforcement. A crucial aspect of the forensic interview (often left out) by police and prosecutors is the “something else” option.

Child forensic interviewers are instructed on how to proceed through a format of question series, known as forensic interviewing guidelines. Child forensic interviewers often ask multiple choice and/or yes or no questions, commonly called “forced choice” questions. A reason for asking these types of questions is that children will answer and thereby provide information that may otherwise not be given.

"Something Else" Option

Perhaps the most important aspect of these types of cases is the forensic interview of the accuser by law enforcement. A crucial aspect of the forensic interview (often left out) by police and prosecutors is the “something else” option. This forensic interview guideline directs child forensic interviewers to give a “something else” response option to closed questions. This is based on the idea that when prompted, children will provide the “something else” option if the other options are untrue, generating a correct answer. For instance, if a child says they were inappropriately touched, instead of the interviewer asking where the touching took place they will ask something similar to “ Did that happen at your home, at school, or somewhere else?” If the touching did not take place at either the child’s home or school, they will give the somewhere else response, and then provide where the touching took place, when prompted.

Consistent with the best practices identified by authoritative sources and consistent with research demonstrating high-quality child forensic interviews, interviews can be done with the use of a minimum of option-posing questions, the most appropriate way for children to be questioned during a forensic interview is to avoid using forced-choice questions.

References

Dr. Dan Swerdlow-Freed, (2018).Forensic interviewing guidelines: Is the “something else” Option appropriate in child forensic interviews? 

To learn even more about how the experienced defense lawyers at Weise Law can use this information to directly impact your case, call us at (616) 931-7030.

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