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Pretext Calls

A pretext call (also known as a "conformational call," "pretense call," or a "taping") is a tape recorded call between two people, usually between a victim of a crime and the suspect of that crime, done under the supervision of law enforcement. Although the caller is usually the victim of a suspected crime it can also be a friend, stranger, child, adult, old acquaintance or even an undercover police officer. This call can be made days, weeks or months after a suspected crime occurs, but the pretext call usually occurs before the suspect is aware he or she is being investigated.

Pretext calls can be important investigative tools used by law enforcement and are most commonly used in sexual assault, rape, and child sexual abuse cases. Anything said by the suspect on tape, whether there was an acknowledgment of the incident or an apology, can be used against the suspect in a criminal case including trial. Law enforcement officers also gain leverage over a suspect as they can now confront that suspect with the recorded statements during an interview, which may lead to a confession.

Generally, a caller will call and start asking questions about old accusations or events in an attempt to get the suspect to make incriminating statements. Examples of pretext calls include, "Why did you have sex with me after I pushed you away and told you to stop" or "You knew I was out of it and didn't know what was going on, but you had sex with me anyways, why?"

In some states, law enforcement must obtain a court order before setting up a pretext call or are prohibited all together. In California, Penal Code Section 633 allows law enforcement officers to orchestrate and tape these calls as long as they are acting within the scope of their official duties.

If you are under investigation for an alleged crime, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney before speaking to law enforcement and learn about your legal options.