Should juveniles be allowed to waive miranda rights?

Should juveniles be allowed to waive miranda rights?

“You have the right to remain silent…..” chances are you know the rest. You don’t have to be involved in a crime to have heard it, thanks to crime TV shows. These are Miranda Rights and although many people can recite them, not everyone understands what they mean.

Miranda rights offer protection.

A law enforcement officer is legally obligated to read the Miranda rights to each suspect (defendant) at the time of his/her arrest and essentially, they state;

  1. You are not required to speak to the police or any law enforcement officer.
  2. You are permitted to have an attorney present to advocate on your behalf throughout police questioning.

A defendant can choose to uphold these rights or waive them. If the defendant chooses to waive their Miranda rights and speak directly to law enforcement officers without the presence of an attorney, such correspondence is not coerced or involuntary. 

Juveniles Miranda rights.

Law enforcement officers must also read Miranda Rights to juveniles. However, juveniles may not fully understand the Miranda rights and the implications of waiving them. Because of this, the rate of juveniles choosing to waive their rights is alarmingly as high as 90%.

Why?

According to a Harvard Law publication; Interrogation coerces by design.3 We regulate interrogation because it can go too far, harming suspects and producing unreliable confessions.4 Common sense backed by brain science leaves no doubt that juveniles are often more vulnerable to the pressures of police questioning.5 Protective procedures designed for adults offer limited help. Younger juveniles misunderstand Miranda warnings at alarming rates,6 and developmental psychologists question whether minors are ever competent to make “knowing, intelligent, and voluntary” waivers of their rights.7 For child victims and witnesses, police, and judges have developed extensive protocols to ensure that statements are reliable, but there are no similar safeguards for juvenile suspects.8 Instead, to take advantage of psychological reality, interrogation training instructs officers to treat children no differently than they do adults, except when employing strategies for manipulating children’s special sensitivities.9 These methods work. As a matter of course, questioned minors waive their rights and make incriminating statements.10 “[Y]oung people are especially prone to confessing falsely.”11 Juveniles account for as much as a third of documented false confessions. 12

Minors waving their Miranda Rights

On one hand, some cases dispute whether a juvenile actually waived his or her rights at all. On the other hand, are cases that dispute whether the rights were said in a way to make the minor understand what rights were actually protected.

Some states are currently considering revising the Miranda standard. Processes that would address some of these concerns include:

  1. Implementing a version of Miranda specifically for juveniles that are much easier to understand.
  2. Making it so that juveniles below a minimum age limit would be legally unable to waive their Miranda rights, make a confession, or even speak to a police officer in the absence of a parent or guardian.

If your child or the minor of a loved one has been arrested, please seek legal help. Call Akamine Law today. Your call is free.

6 See Thomas Grisso, Juveniles’ Capacities to Waive Miranda Rights: An Empirical Analysis, 68 CALIF. L. REV. 1134, 1166 (1980)

7 Barry C. Feld, Police Interrogation of Juveniles: An Empirical Study of Policy and Practice, 97 J. CRIM. L. & CRIMINOLOGY 219, 228 (2006)

8 See Tamar R. Birckhead, The Age of the Child: Interrogating Juveniles After Roper v. Simmons, 65 WASH. & LEE L. REV. 385, 420–27 (2008)

9 See FRED E. INBAU ET AL., CRIMINAL INTERROGATION AND CONFESSIONS 298–303 (4th ed. 2004)

10 See BARRY C. FELD, KIDS, COPS, AND CONFESSIONS 170 (2013)

11 Christine S. Scott-Hayward, Explaining Juvenile False Confessions: Adolescent Development and Police Interrogation, 31 LAW & PSYCHOL. REV. 53, 61 (2007)

12 Steven A. Drizin & Richard A. Leo, The Problem of False Confessions in the Post-DNA World, 82 N.C. L. REV. 891, 944 (2004)