The U.S. Supreme Court has delivered a ruling that has strong implications for juvenile criminal defense. The Court has ruled that police officers must take a child's age into consideration when deciding when to issue Miranda warnings.
The ruling arises from a case involving a 13-year-old child, who was questioned by police at a school. Police officers believed that the child had been involved in certain crimes in the neighborhood and visited the school where he was questioned in the presence of the assistant principal and a couple of other school officers.
At no point was the child informed that he could remain silent or that he could ask for his legal guardian, his grandmother, to be present. His grandmother was never informed about the questioning. Far from reminding him about his right to remain silent, the assistant principal informed him that it was in his best interests to cooperate with police. Not surprisingly, the boy caved in under the pressure and admitted to his crime.
During his trial, his criminal defense lawyers argued that the confession was not admissible, but that motion was denied. Police officers are required to give the Miranda warning, informing a suspect about his right to remain silent and the right to a lawyer only when the person is under custody. A state appeals court and the North Carolina Supreme Court also affirmed the ruling that the boy was not in police custody at the time that he confessed his crime and that his age was not relevant to the question of whether he had been in custody at the time.
The Supreme Court has now disagreed with the appeals court and the North Carolina Supreme Court. According to the ruling, the Miranda warning standard cannot apply to a child because it is very likely that a child may be under pressure when he is being questioned, and he may not feel free to walk away from questioning like an adult can.
The New Jersey criminal defense lawyers at Helmer Paul Conley and Kasselman are particularly experienced in the area of juvenile law. We represent young people charged with DUI, sex crimes, drug crimes, fraud, assault and other crimes across New Jersey.