“You have the right to remain silent.”
So begins one of the more well-known speeches in American criminal jurisprudence. Whenever an individual is about to be interrogated, law enforcement officers must repeat this statement – known as one’s Miranda rights. Further, after this statement has been read, the individual is given a choice – remain silent or waive his/her rights and speak. Unfortunately, criminal cases are full of stories about suspects who have been deemed to have waived these rights unknowingly or unwittingly. To protect minors, who do not understand the gravity of such a waiver, the California Legislature enacted a law, which went into effect this year, prohibiting those under 16 from waiving these rights without consulting with legal counsel. A discussion of the Miranda Rights, generally, the need for this new law, and what to do if a minor is taken into police custody and interrogated, will follow below.
The Miranda Rights
The Miranda Rights have their modern incarnation in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision of Miranda v. Arizona. Generally speaking, before any law enforcement agency may question an individual whom they suspect has broken a law, that agency must inform the individual of some of his/her basic rights, guaranteed by the Constitution, as well as other information that the individual should know prior to speaking to that law enforcement agency. Specifically, the Miranda Rights include:
● the right to remain silent;
● the knowledge that anything the individual says or does, going forward, will be used against him/her in a court of law;
● the right to have an attorney present before answering any questions; and
● the right to have one appointed on his/her behalf if an individual cannot afford one.
The Need For Protection
It is a common belief that those under 16 are not mature enough to fully comprehend their legal rights. Concerningly, law enforcement officers are trained to obtain admissions and confessions from individuals they believe have committed crimes. Part of this training includes offering false assurances (that the individuals will not be imprisoned if they speak), tricking individuals into confessing to crimes they did not commit, and questioning individuals for hours in an attempt to wear them down. These strategies have been successful, resulting in many closed cases without great expenditure of time and money by law enforcement agencies. Their success is based, partially, on the fact that humans will generally wilt under the pressure of law enforcement interrogation, are looking for a way out for their failures, and/or will just become exhausted.
Unfortunately, while adults are able to freely make the decision whether to waive one’s rights of silence and legal counsel, and fully comprehend the consequences of doing so, as mentioned above, minors under 16 typically do not possess this ability. Additionally, these children may more easily succumb to law enforcement tactics, and may say something that, when used against them, and even if untrue, will have lifetime ramifications. Accordingly, anew law was enacted and become effective this year that is intended to compensate for this lack of understanding by children under 16, through conditioning a valid waiver of Miranda Rights on prior consultation with legal counsel. This measure ensures the minors are fully aware of the consequences of any waiver of their Miranda Rights before negative effects attach, an act that calls for skilled legal representation by someone on their behalf.
Seek Legal Advice
If a minor you know has been brought in for questioning by a law enforcement agency, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Manshoory Law Group as soon as possible. They will ensure that the child is treated properly, and maintains all rights afforded to him/her by the Constitution. Attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call. Contact ustoday for an initial consultation.