When a child says that he or she has been molested, this often leads to law enforcement being contacted and the allegations being investigated, as a Decatur sex crimes lawyer can explain. One investigative tool commonly used in a child molestation case is called a forensic interview. A forensic interview is an interview conducted with a child that aim to document what the child says happened in the most effective and least traumatizing way. Another aim of a good forensic interview is to seek the most accurate information and limit the risk of tainting the child’s words and recollections.
A forensic interview is typically video recorded. The purpose of video recording a forensic interview is several-fold. First, a video recording presents solid unequivocal documentation of what the child says happened. interview is ideally conducted in a neutral and child friendly setting. The video aspect of the recording allows law enforcement, judges, lawyers and jurors to observe the child’s demeanor and body language at the time of the interview. Having the interview on video also allows others to analyze the technique used by the interviewer and make sure that the interview was conducted in up to standards. Once the interview has been recorded, law enforcement and other officials can refer back to the video instead of re-interviewing the child. In this manner, the child is not questioned repeatedly about the even which can be traumatizing and also tends to increase the chances that the child’s memory might be tainted by leading questions.
The person conducting the forensic interview in a child molestation case is typically an adult who has been specially trained in the best practices for interviewing a child. Interviews that are conducted by detectives have become less and less common in recent years because it is widely recognized that interviews conducted by law enforcement come with inherent disadvantages. For example, the child may be scared or confused by the presence of an officer and in may limit his or her ability to give accurate information. If the child has made false allegations, being confronted by a law enforcement may make the child feel they have to maintain those allegations or they will get into trouble.
In a well conducted forensic interview in a child molestation case the interviewer will seek to elicit information from the child by asking open ended questions. These questions should not suggest an answer to the child. The child should be allowed to state what occurred in his or her own words. The interviewer should also seek not to introduce new terminology into the interview that the child has not already used.
The forensic interviewer should also try to determine what was occurring in the child’s life around the time that the child made the allegations of abuse. This is an important aspect of a forensic interview because it can help eliminate possible motives to lie and rule out the possibility of coaching.
Even the best conducted forensic interview is not a lie detector test and cannot eliminate the possibility that the child is recounting something that just did not occur. Conversely, even an inept interviewer can uncover accurate and detail driven accounts of a truly traumatic event in a child’s life. The forensic interview, just like any other bit of evidence should be considered in light of the entire investigation into a case of alleged child molestation.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Andrew R. Lynch, P.C. for their insight into forensic interviewing in a child molestation case.