Age of a Suspect Must Be Considered before Interrogation by the Police
The Michigan State Police Department recently issued a legal update wherein they advised their troopers that age must be considered when determining whether to give Miranda warnings to a juvenile suspect.
In J.D.B. v. North Carolina, J.D.B. was a 13- year-old, seventh-grade student suspected of breaking and entering and larceny. J.D.B. was removed from class and interviewed at his school in a closed-door conference room by two police officers and two school administrators. Before beginning the interview, the officers did not give him Miranda warnings, the opportunity to call his legal guardian, or tell him he was free to leave the room. J.D.B. was interrogated about the crimes, and he confessed his involvement. After J.D.B. confessed, an officer advised him that he could refuse to answer further questions and that he was free to leave. Asked whether he understood, J.D.B. nodded and provided further information regarding the crimes and a written statement.
Two juvenile petitions were filed against J.D.B., charging him with breaking and entering and larceny. J.D.B.’s attorney moved to suppress his statements and the evidence located as a result of those statements, arguing J.D.B. was interrogated while in custody without being read his Miranda warnings; therefore, his statements were involuntary. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, stating J.D.B. was not in custody at the time of the interrogation and that his statements were voluntary. J.D.B. was adjudicated delinquent and later appealed.
The U. S. Supreme Court reviewed the test for custody: whether a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would believe he or she was free to leave. The Court noted, in some circumstances, a reasonable child subjected to police questioning will feel pressured to answer questions even though a reasonable adult would feel free to go. The Court held that so long as a child’s age was known to the officer at the time of questioning, or would have been objectively apparent to a reasonable officer, the child’s age must be included as part of the custody analysis. In addition, the Court noted this does not mean the child’s age will be a significant factor in every case, but it must be included in the analysis.
Officers are required to consider a juvenile suspect’s age in determining whether Miranda warnings must be given to a juvenile during an interrogation. Additionally, officers are reminded to properly advise all in-custody suspects of their Miranda warnings before questioning.
Here is the big question…Why not just give Miranda every time a person is arrested or in custody? Virtually every client that I’ve represented…and that’s thousands by the way…point out to me that he or she were not given Miranda warnings. People just don’t realize that generally, Miranda warnings are only given on television and in the movies. The only time that police are required to give Miranda warnings is when a suspect is in custody and being questioned, AKA interrogated. Custody is defined as whether a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would believe he or she was free to leave. Courts bend over backward to say this “reasonable person” standard was not met by defendants in evidentiary hearings. What are the police so afraid of? Obviously, they are afraid of the constitution and liberty, which is why they don’t advise someone of their right to have a lawyer. If they weren’t concerned that they were doing something wrong, manipulative or deceptive, they wouldn’t care if there was a lawyer present.
The fact is that many of the cases that I beat at trial by getting a charge reduced or a client found not guilty is because the police and prosecutors cheated, hid evidence, created evidence or manipulated witness testimony. If everyone would just do their job ethically and according to the rules, the system would work the way it was intended. We know that the jails hold many wrongfully convicted people and many people who are guilty go free. The ration of wrong calls by juries as compared to accurate verdicts would be reduced drastically if law enforcement (police, prosecutors, and courts) would consistently follow the rules.
Until that time, the defense team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. will work tirelessly to expose the lies, manipulations, and deception occasionally used by law enforcement officer, in their passionate and zealous effort to protect their clients. Call us today at (248) 263-6800.