United States Supreme Court expands protections for juveniles who are interrogated
Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court that a minor’s age is an important factor to be considered in a court’s determination whether he should have been advised of his Miranda rights prior to being interrogated.
In J.D.B. v. North Carolina, 564 U.S.—, (Slip op. 09-11121 (2011), https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/09-11121.pdf, a divided court ruled on the importance of a minor’s age in determining whether his statement should be admissible. In J.D.B., a 7th grader was pulled out of class, not given his rights and not allowed to call his guardian, before being questioned about two residential burglaries. Only after questioning and after admissions were made was he advised of his Miranda rights.
Generally a subject must be advised of those rights only when he is in custody. Yesterday’s ruling stated that a minor, whose development differs from that of an adult, may believe he is in custody when a full-formed adult may believe he is free to leave.
The decision is significant. It will hopefully lead law enforcement to provide additional protections for minors who are questioned. Additionally, the courts will not scrutinize juvenile statements more carefully. Statements given without warnings by young persons may be inadmissible at trial if the subject did not feel that he was free to leave and not cooperate with the police.