Parents, Children and the Police
If you mention to people that teenagers are more deferential to authority than adults, you get some quizzical looks (especially from parents of teenagers). While teens are by nature headstrong and rebellious, study after study show that when a child under 18 and the police interact, the teen is too easily influenced, particularly if they are being questioned about possible criminal conduct.
Kids want to please, and tend to do or say anything to get out of a stressful situation — like a police interrogation. When it comes to learning values and how to behave, children need parents. When it comes to the criminal justice system, they need a lawyer.
There are numerous cases of teenagers confessing to very serious crimes they did not commit. Clearly, this can be disastrous to their defense. Many teens are locked up for a long time based on false confessions.
Politely — but firmly — decline police requests to question your child, and tell them your lawyer will be in touch.
Children Receive Additional Protection
The prosecution must meet a heavy burden to demonstrate that any accused knowingly and intelligently waived his privilege against self-incrimination. This burden is even heavier when the accused is under 18, because courts recognize that most juveniles do not understand the significance and protective function of their rights, even when they are read the standard Miranda warnings.
Therefore, “special caution” must be exercised when police present juveniles with the option of waiving their Miranda rights in order to ensure that the juvenile defendant has understood his rights and the consequences of waiving them.
That’s the theory. What’s the practice between children and the police?
Legal Protections When Police Question A Child
To ensure juveniles are protected, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has established a procedure the police should follow when they want to interrogate a child:
- in the case of juveniles who are under 14, no waiver of the right to remain silent can be effective unless a parent or an interested adult was present, understood the Miranda warnings, and had the opportunity to explain the rights to the child
- juveniles between 14 and 18 must be afforded the opportunity to consult with an interested adult
- however, even if this opportunity is not given, a waiver of rights made by a child under 18 may be valid if the circumstances demonstrate a high degree of intelligence, experience, knowledge, or sophistication on the part of the juvenile
Children and the police is a toxic mix.
Attorney Jack Cunha can help protect your child.
Call 617-523-4300 to schedule a consultation. One of our Boston criminal defense lawyers is a native bilingual speaker in Spanish and English. Another is fluent in French.
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