December 13, 2019
In this episode, Mike explains additional safeguards in place in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to ensure there is a valid waiver of a juvenile’s Miranda rights. Despite good intentions, parents and guardians can adversely affect a juvenile’s situation.
JR: Welcome to In Your Court. Today’s episode is entitled Juveniles and Miranda Rights Knowing the Safeguards in Place to Protect a Juvenile. Today Mike will discuss Juveniles and their Miranda rights and the laws and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts related to waiving those rights. I’m your host Jordan Rich and I’m very pleased to be back with Mike Contant an attorney whose firm, Contant Law, specializes in criminal defense including defending juveniles. Mike, today we’re focusing on Miranda rights and how they affect juveniles in the court system. Can you start with an overview?
MC: In general, in any criminal case one of the most powerful pieces of evidence a police officer can obtain is a confession from a suspect. You see it on TV all the time. They don’t believe they have a great case until they get the person to confess. And Miranda as a safeguard that got put into place in order to keep people at least knowing their rights as to whether or not they should talk to the police and whether or not they are going to confess There are a couple of things that have to be occurring in order to require the rights at first. The first is the person it has to be what they call a state actor generally speaking a police officer doing the questioning This is important for the juvenile context because oftentimes the juveniles are talking to say the school principal or a teacher or somebody else in authority, but the Miranda rights are required when talking to that person about oftentimes a criminal matter
The second is they have to be in what they call custody which doesn’t necessarily mean handcuffs on, in the back of the squad car or being brought to the police station and thrown in a cell. Custody is basically where the person doesn’t feel free to leave. That’s the reasonable person of this particular age. So does
JR: is that considered being under arrest point?
MC: Not always.
JR: Not always, okay. That’s a very fine line.
MC: So it’s a legal distinction but essentially it’s with a reasonable person of that in those circumstances would not feel free to leave without answering the police officers questions. And back in 2011 a very important case came down called JDB versus North Carolina which said when assessing weather not someone in custody you have to take into account their age and this was a juvenile case. And essentially a juvenile is less likely to tell the police, “No I’m not talking to you” and just walk away than an adult in the same situation may be so there has to be a consideration there as well.
JR: So we’re focusing today on juveniles and waving of the rights and what that implies and what that could mean.
JR: So let’s talk about that. What’s your advice?
MC: My advice is, as I’ve said many times before is: Just say no. A police officer wants to talk to you politely decline, “No I don’t wanna talk to you.” Certainly, “I’d like a lawyer,” is my advice. Oftentimes that doesn’t happen so, what we have to do is make sure that everyone understands their rights and they understand their rights in order to make the decision whether or not to talk to police in situations where they don’t take my first set of advice which is to say, “No.”
JR: Right so, so in the event that someone does waive their right to all of this stuff, does that put them behind the eight ball in many cases because they’re not taking advantage of that protection.
MC: It can. The very first right is you have the right to remain silent. My first piece of advice is like you said to exercise that but, and again many adults don’t know to do that. So and in the juvenile context, there are additional protections and safeguards put into place to help the juvenile and assists the juvenile in understanding that they truly do have that particular right.
JR: So the law as you point out distinguishes adults as being able to understand the significance of waiving rights but juveniles have more safeguards.
MC: They do. They do, particularly the younger the child is the better the safeguard there is. So, what is required in the law first and foremost the police can’t just go in to a school pull a thirteen-year-old out of class and start questioning him about a particular crime. In those circumstances they have to have a parent or they are referred to as an interested adult present. Interested adult could be a close family member or close family friend. It could be an attorney. Doesn’t necessarily have to be a parent but someone with that child’s best interests at heart has to be there; it has to be an adult in order to assist the juvenile understanding #1 what the rights are that are being read to them, how they may affect them and whether or not they should actually waive those rights and give a statement to the police.
JR: These are under fourteen year old, correct?
JR: Okay if you’re fourteen or above. There’s a little more flexibility with the rule, correct?
MC: It’s slightly more flexibility. In that circumstance they say that the juvenile 14 to 18 should ordinarily have an opportunity to consult with a parent or interested adult. That means and in in in a practical sense, what happens is, say you’re at the police station a parent you know a parent is brought, in the juvenile is sitting there and the police officer typically reads the rights of the people: you know, the right to remain silent, right to have an attorney, right to have the attorney with you, all the rights we’ve heard about before, um…usually make them sign a form saying that they’ve been read. And the police officer says, “I’m going to step out for a minute so that you guys can talk.” And that’s a normal everyday scenario that we see and they step out for a few minutes and the idea is that the parents and juvenile are talking about what they just heard and the form they are about to sign, and deciding whether or not — deciding together whether or not they should actually waive the rights and actually give a statement to the police officers. That happens all the time.
JR: How does the court decide whether or not this was appropriate? Are there are certain guidelines that the courts look at in terms of procedure
MC: So if there is ever any challenge as to whether or not this occurred there’s a hearing the takes place.
MC: People testify the police officer would be required
testified to lay out exactly what he did – what he or she did – in giving the rights and making sure that the
person understood the rights and making sure they had this opportunity to
consult. I keep saying opportunity can solve because it’s important. It doesn’t
mean they actually consulted. It just means that he gave them some time alone
in order to do so. Whether they took him up on it or not as is a whole other question.
Many times, the parents don’t understand any more than the kids do because they
have been put in that position in the past and they don’t know what to do. And
oftentimes they say,
Well, you know I just want to be honest, I just want to say what happened, and that’s not always the best legal advice.
JR: Getting back to the TV version that everyone thinks they know, I have noticed that certain TV characters will actually take a card out of their pocket and read it from the card which is probably more like real life, I’m guessing I’m not sure. Does the Miranda have to be delivered fully word-for-word?
MC: It has to be delivered fully so in other words, you can’t leave out any of the rights at least the basic idea of any of the rights. It does not have to be word-for-word. Many police officers carry that card you’re referring to. The better practice particularly with a juvenile case is to have a form that they can go over the rights and have that actually signed off by both the parent and the juvenile. It’s a better practice for the police to do it shows the court a little bit more evidence that something actually occurred and it was done the right way.
JR: Let’s reiterate and so to refresh our audience again and we’ll focus on Miranda but in general the juvenile court system. What parents and guardians should know? And what the juvenile’s themselves should know starting again this is a summary with the Miranda rights but then also with what they’re going to be facing in a court system.
MC: Sure, as I mentioned before the juvenile court is not to be taken lightly. The penalties can be stiff for juvenile; not – they’re different than adult penalties but they can still be stiff and more importantly the juvenile record can follow the person around and have long lasting implications we talked about before. But as far as you know how to treat the case you do wanna take it seriously and like I said, the best way to help win the case is to politely exercise your rights to say when they say you have the right to remain silent say, “Yeah. I’m gonna exercise that. I don’t wanna say anything.” The second best way is when they say you know you have the right to a lawyer, “Yeah, I want that one too. I need my lawyer here.” And that will cause is a police to stop questioning immediately if you exercise either one of those rights police aren’t allowed to continue and they are not allowed to continue question you and again, they’re not going to get that powerful piece of evidence which is your own words saying that you did this.
JR: Having an attorney such as you, someone who’s very skilled in these areas is so critical as you say because you can make early mistakes that can hurt you later on.
JR: And greatly.
MC: The biggest mistake in many cases again is that parent, who’s doing a different job than I am. They are just trying to raise their children in the right way so they encourage them to tell the truth encourage them to cooperate with the police oftentimes to their own child’s detriment. Even though they it’s well thought out by the parent but it’s not a good legal strategy in the case and often times ends up, quite frankly, hurting the child in the case that we’re dealing with.
JR: We’re talking about long-standing constitutional rights here aren’t we?
MC: the Fifth Amendment and in Massachusetts we also have our own constitution called Article 12 which is essentially the same thing
JR: Well, fascinating fascinating discussion. For those out there who have to deal with this, you now are armed with more information. Thank you Mike.
MC: Thank you
JR: For more information about Contant Law and juvenile Miranda rights visit. www dot Contant dash law dot com. You can follow Contant Law on Facebook, Twitter and connect with them via LinkedIn. For specific questions email info at Contant dash law dot com. We hope you found this episode informative. Please rate and review this episode and subscribe for additional ones to stay informed and protect your juvenile’s rights. All episodes are available on all platforms. Thank you for listening.