Question: Are juveniles treated the same as adults when determining custody under Miranda?
Quick Answer: No. There is a heightened sensitivity to questioning juveniles, so you should be more careful about giving Miranda warnings sooner.
Facts: A detective instructed the father of 13-year-old J.S. to bring his son to the police station so officers could question the boy. However, while at the station, officers interviewed the boy without his father in the room. The detective testified at a hearing that he informed the boy he was not under arrest, but the videotape of the interview reveals that no such statement was made. Rather, the detective stated that J.S. would be returning home after the interview, implying at times that the interview would end once the boy finally told the truth. Further, officers never told him he had the right to end the interview at any time.
Why this case is important: When you’re interviewing a juvenile witness, age matters. The Miranda rights will attach more quickly with juveniles than with adults. This court found that although the boy was not under formal arrest when interviewed, his freedom was restrained due to the following reasons: (1) He was 13 years old and, consequently, there was a likelihood that he was unaware of his rights, including the right to be silent or to request a lawyer. (2) His father was told by police to bring him to the police station for questioning. (3) His father was not permitted to accompany him during the interview. (4) He was not informed that he could leave at any time, but only that he would be allowed to go home with his father after the interview. Based on the circumstances, J.S. was in custody during the interview and, therefore, officers had a duty to advise him of his Miranda rights.
Keep in mind: Circumstances that wouldn’t count as “custody” for an adult can constitute custody for a juvenile. Officers are not required to administer Miranda warnings to every person they question. But, if the person is a juvenile, you may want to give the warnings just to be on the safe side. This is particularly true the younger the person is. This opinion follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent opinion in J.D.B. v North Carolina, stating that in cases involving a juvenile suspect, the juvenile’s age may be analyzed as part of the court’s determination of whether a custodial interrogation occurred.
Visit theTwelfth District Court of Appeals website to read the entire opinion.