U.S. Supreme Court Adds Protections for Youth in Police Questioning

Imagine yourself a 13 year old sitting in your school classroom, called away from class by the school safety officer and taken to be questioned by a uniformed police officer. Would it be clear that you had the right to walk away from the questioning?

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police must take into consideration a child’s age when considering whether to issue a Miranda warning to youth. They found that children deserve the extra protection of the Miranda warning because they are likely to feel compelled to answer questions from the police.

“It is beyond dispute that children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult in the same circumstance would feel free to leave,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor. “Seeing no reason for police officers or courts to blind themselves to that common sense reality, we hold that a child’s age properly informs the Miranda custody analysis.”

In the case under question, a 13 year old North Carolina student was suspected of involvement in two house burglaries. He was taken from class by the school public safety officer for questioning by local police. After the vice principal advised the boy to do the “right thing” and he was told he could be detained before a court hearing, he confessed.

The ruling will necessitate education and training for law enforcement officers as well as child-serving organizations such as schools and youth clubs.

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