Recently, the United States Supreme Court has held that the age of a child subjected to police questioning is a relevant factor to consider in determining where a minor must be given Miranda warnings before being questioned by law enforcement officers. Under Miranda, an individual must be advised of the rights to remain silent and request an attorney before being questioned by the police while in custody. All statements taking in such custodial settings are presumed to be compelled and inadmissible unless there is a showing that individuals have made a knowing and voluntary waiver of their Miranda rights. The purpose of the rule is to safeguard the constitutional guarantee against self-incrimination by allowing individuals to invoke their right not to speak with the police when they are subjected to custodial interrogation.
Pursuant to Miranda, suspects must be warned that they have a right to remain silent, that any statement they make may be used as evidence against them, and that they have a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed. Both adult and minor suspects are entitled to such warnings as long as they are questioned in custodial settings. Unlike adults, children are generally more vulnerable to outside pressures, and often lack the necessary experience to recognize and avoid choices that could be detrimental to them, including giving statements to the police that could implicate them in a crime. Until recently, however, there was no clear requirement to take the minor’s age into account in evaluating whether an individual was in custody for the purposes of the court’s analysis.
A reasonable child subjected to police questioning may feel pressured to continue answering questions when a reasonable adult would feel free to go and terminate his or her encounter with the police. In recognizing this important difference, the Supreme Court has held that so long as the child’s age is known to a police officer at the time of police questioning, or would have been objectively apparent to a reasonable police officer at the time of such an encounter, it must be included in the custody analysis. This does not mean that the age of a child must be a determinative factor in every case. Rather, the courts must now take the minor’s age into account when considering where there has been such a restriction on a child’s freedom as to render him or her in custody.
This office handles all aspects related to juvenile defense in San Diego County. For a free consultation, contact us at (619) 232-5122 or: [email protected]
For more information on juvenile crimes, see the following:
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