You are probably familiar with the concept of “Miranda rights” from watching crime shows or movies, where a suspect is first advised of their “right to remain silent” prior to their interrogation.
Juveniles, or children and teens 16 years old and younger in Georgia, must also be given “Miranda warnings”. The 1967 United States Supreme Court case, In Re Gault, a case involving a young boy accused of making obscene phone calls to his neighbor, established that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment applied to juvenile court proceedings. This means that certain rights, such as the right to be notified of the charges in a timely manner, the right to an attorney, the right against self-incrimination, and the right to confront witnesses applies to juveniles.
A police officer must give Miranda warnings before questioning a person who is in police custody.
A person is in police custody if he or she has been arrested or a police officer asks the person questions and a reasonable person would not feel free to leave. The warnings include:
If a child has been taken into custody, booked into a juvenile detention center, and spends some time at the detention center awaiting their court hearing, then an arrest/custody situation is very clear. Miranda warnings must be read prior to asking the child questions about the matter.
However, it is less clear in situations where the child is taken out of class and questioned at a police station, or in a room at the school by a school resource officer. In these situations, the officer would not have to read the warnings if the child was free to leave at any time. Nonetheless, a child may feel intimidated, scared and certainly not free to leave based on the fact that they are being asked questions by an authority figure.
School officials and private citizens like a teen’s employer do not have to provide Miranda warnings, but School Resource Officers, since they are acting in the capacity of a law enforcement officer must provide these warnings.
In addition, a police officer must make a good faith effort to call the child’s parents before moving forward with the questioning. However, if they cannot reach the parents or the parents are not able to be present, the police can question the child in the parent’s absence. Although a child in these circumstances does not have the right to have their parents present, they do have the right to have an attorney present at questioning. This applies whether the child is charged as an adult or is charged as a juvenile with a delinquent act.
Here are a few helpful tips for parents:
Kathryn Boortz has a passion for working with youth and their families. She is the founder of Boortz Law, a law firm that focuses on juvenile defense.