Monday, June 20, 2011

When Do Kids Get Miranda Warnings?

Last week the United States Supreme Court held that police must consider a child's age when they decide whether to give the famous Miranda warning.

Miranda Rights
Since 1966, the United States Supreme Court has required law enforcement to inform suspects that they have the right to remain silent. If police question suspects without giving the Miranda warning, or if police ask questions after suspects tell police that they do not want to speak, the police cannot use the information that they learn during the confession in court.

However, police only have to read suspects the Miranda warning if the suspect is "in custody" or in a "custodial situation." To determine whether a suspect is in custody, the court must consider whether "a reasonable person [would] have felt he or she was at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave."

J. D. B. v. North Carolina
The Supreme Court's new case holds that police must consider the age of the suspect when deciding whether the suspect is in custody. Younger people may feel that they have to stay and answer police questions in situations where adults might feel free to leave. The suspect in this case was a young child who was questioned at school without a parent present.

J. D. B. may force police to start giving the Miranda warning to all minors before questioning them. While the dissent argued that the new rule "will be hard for the police to follow, and it will
be hard for judges to apply." I have more confidence in our police and judges. Any step to give more protection to young criminal suspects is a good thing as far as I am concerned.

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