Police Want to Question Your Child? – What You Need to Know
It’s a scary thing when the police call and tell you that they arrested your son or daughter for a crime. If the police are doing their jobs correctly, one of the first things they should be telling little you and little Joey is that he has certain rights. These are commonly known as the Miranda rights. They include:
- The right to remain silent;
- That anything you say can be used against you in court;
- The right to have an attorney with you during questioning; and
- If you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed to you at no cost prior to any questioning
Although not required, it is preferred that most police now give the so-called fifth Miranda right, which states that you have the right to stop questioning at any time.
Juveniles Have More Rights Than Adults
When the police question juveniles, the law imposes additional safeguards to ensure the child’s rights are protected. The courts have recognized recent studies which suggest that most juveniles do not understand the significance of the protective function of these rights even when they are read the standard Miranda warnings and may waive their rights without realizing the ramifications.
Juveniles Under the Age of 14
For juveniles under fourteen, the court requires that a parent or interested adult be present, understand the warning and have an opportunity to discuss the Miranda rights with the juvenile before a decision can be made to waive those rights and answer questions. No exceptions.
Juveniles Over the Age of 14
For juveniles over fourteen, the rules are a bit more flexible. The juvenile must at least have the opportunity to have a parent or interested adult present to discuss and ensure that the juvenile understands what the waiver of the rights entails before agreeing to speak to the police.
However, an exception exists if the juvenile over fourteen has a high degree of intelligence, experience or sophistication. If these circumstances can be demonstrated, the juvenile may waive validly their rights without consultation. The key point is that the juvenile was read their rights, demonstrably understood them and were offered the opportunity to consult with a parent, interested adult or attorney.
For example In a recent case, the defendant was age seventeen at the time of the questioning. He was not given any opportunity to consult with a parent, interested adult or Criminal Defense lawyer from Woburn, Massachusetts prior to this questioning. The prosecutor attempted to show that he possessed a high degree of intelligence, experience or sophistication. However, the facts did not support such a showing. The juvenile had limited prior experience with the criminal justice system. There was no indication that he was ever given a Miranda warning by officers or that he asserted his rights. Further, the defendant did poorly in school. Under these circumstances, the juvenile’s statements to the police were suppressed by the Court and could not be used against him in the case.
Should Your Child Speak with the Police?
Now that the police have advised you and your child of his or her rights, our best advice is that you exercise those rights. In other words, when asked if your child wants to give a statement to the police, you should politely decline and ask for a lawyer. Nancy Reagan said it best (albeit in a different context) “JUST SAY NO.” Once you do this, the police must immediately cease questioning.
No Upside to Speaking with the Police
The reason we advise our clients to not speak with the police, is that there is rarely any benefit of doing so. You can almost never talk your way out of trouble. But you can always talk you way into it.
The police are not your friends in this situation. Despite what they say, you “won’t be helping yourself” and “they won’t speak with the prosecutor or judge or your behalf.” It is also important to note that the police are allowed to lie to you during questioning. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard clients say that the police officer promised not to charge them if they just came clean and confessed.
Even providing small details, such as where you were; what you were doing; or who you were with may bolster the case against you in court. If the police are looking to speak with your child, they already believe he or she did the crime. There will be no talking themselves out of it by giving a statement. They can only make the situation worse.
No Downside to Shutting Up
Because you have every right to remain silent under the United States Constitution, no one can punish you for using it. When your case gets to Court the judge won’t hold it against you at any stage. Also, at a trial before a jury, the jurors never get to know that you refused to speak with the police. Basically no one gets to hold it against you.
The important part is that there will be no incriminating statement in your child’s own words. The strongest evidence the police and prosecutor can have against any person accused of a crime is a confession. Don’t give them this crucial evidence.
The takeaway here is that is always best for your child to exercise their right to remain silent and not speak to the police. However, if that doesn’t happen you need an experienced juvenile defense attorney in your corner to ensure that your child’s rights are protected. Give us a call, we are happy to be your guide through this difficult time.
Contant Law defends juvenile cases in Middlesex, Essex and Suffolk counties including the following courts: Brookline Juvenile Court | Cambridge Juvenile Court | Chelsea Juvenile Court | Dorchester Juvenile Court | Essex County Juvenile Court | Lawrence Juvenile Court | Lowell Juvenile Court | Lynn Juvenile Court | Middlesex County Juvenile Court | Newburyport Juvenile Court | Salem Juvenile Court | Suffolk Juvenile Court | Waltham Juvenile Court | West Roxbury Juvenile Court