Juvenile questioning by police under California Law is a subject of a recent 9th Circuit Court of Appeal. In my almost 20 years of practicing criminal defense in California I am often retained on cases involving juveniles being charged with serious crimes such as robbery, assault with a deadly or even murder. In many situations, when a juvenile is arrested based on probably cause that he or she committed a crime, a police officer or other law enforcement personnel will question the juvenile at a police station or juvenile hall with the consent and often times knowledge of the parent. As with adults, juveniles also have the same Constitutional rights as any other person. As such, it is important for a juvenile to know he has the same protections under Miranda as an adult and often times even more protection as recently explained in this recent California Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision entitled United States v. IMM.
What We Learned from the IMM Case About Police Interrogations of Juveniles Accused of Criminal Activity
In United v. IMM a 12 year old juvenile suspect and his Mother were transported to a police station by a detective for questioning in a sexual assault case. While at the station, the juvenile’s Mother was read a consent form which she signed allowing the officer to speak with the juvenile alone. The officer read the juvenile’s Miranda rights to the Mother but not the 12 year old child. In reversing the Juvenile’s conviction, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals explained that Custodial police interrogation, by its very nature, isolates and pressures the individual, and there is mounting empirical evidence that these pressures can induce a frighteningly high percentage of people to confess to crimes they never committed. “That risk is all the more troubling and recent studies show all the more acute when the subject of the interrogation is a juvenile.” (See the United States Supreme Court case of J.D.B. v. North Carolina 131 S.Ct. 2394, 2401).
1. Reading a Juvenile’s Miranda Rights to a Parent is Not Enough
The Court in IMM found among other things that reading a child’s Miranda rights to his or her parent does not satisfy the requirements of giving a Miranda warning to a person in custody as required by the 5thAmendment of the United States Constitution. Specifically, before a custodial interrogation by a police officer of a juvenile or adult, a suspect must be “warned that he has a right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed.” (See Miranda, 384 U.S. 444)
In the IMM matter, the Court of Appeals explained that under the Constitution of the United States, it is not sufficient to just read Miranda warnings to juvenile suspect’s parent even if the juvenile is in the room. The Constitution provides the Miranda warning need to be directly given to a suspect. It is not sufficient that a suspect in custody including a juvenile is in “earshot” of the giving of the Miranda warnings or even that the warnings are given in a clear voice while the juvenile suspect is near. Ultimately, as IMM explained, a juvenile in custody must be clearly and directly informed of his Miranda rights regardless if a parent is in our outside the interrogation room.
2. Custodial Interrogation Triggers Your Rights Under Miranda
Whether you are facing a juvenile prosecution in California in a county such as Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino or even Riverside, often times a prosecutor will argue that a person’s Miranda rights have not been violated since they were not in “custody” when questioned by the police or sheriff’s department. As explained in the IMM case, court’s usually look at 5 factors to determine whether a person is in custody for purposes of Miranda: (1) the language used to summon the individual; (2) the extent to which the defendant is confronted with
Evidence of guilt; (3) the physical surroundings of the interrogation; (4) the duration of the detention; and (5) the Degree of pressure applied to detain the individual. There are other factors that a Court may look at as well depending on the fact and circumstances of an individual case which an experienced criminal defense attorney can identify and use for a successful defense in either an adult criminal case or a juvenile prosecution.
In regards to determining whether a child would feel free to leave, the standard can be more stringent than for adults based on the child’s age. As explained in the IMM case, criminal judges should be cautioned when deciding a Miranda motion under the custody issue that a child’s age may affect how a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would perceive his or her freedom to leave and warned that a reasonable child subject to police questioning will sometimes feel pressured to submit when a reasonable adult would feel free to leave.
Importance of Retaining a California Criminal Defense Attorney Early in Juvenile Cases
There are many different defenses that an seasoned criminal defense lawyer may use in defending an adult or juvenile in a criminal prosecution. It is important to immediately consult with a criminal defense lawyer when you and/or your child are facing criminal charges whether the charges be a misdemeanor shoplifting or a serious three strikes offense in California such as 1st degree burglary or robbery.