When you are arrested, you have certain constitutional rights – most importantly, the right to remain silent under the 5th Amendment and the right to have an attorney represent you under the 6th Amendment. These are both extraordinarily important rights, as most people do not realize how harmful it can be to talk to law enforcement officers without an attorney present. Even if you have done nothing wrong, it is all too easy to say something that can be used against you to implicate you in a crime.
Because it is so important for everyone to be aware of these rights, the Supreme Court of the United States held in Miranda v. Arizona in 1966 that police are required to inform anyone who is being interrogated in custody of these rights. Following this case, this has been referred to as the “Miranda warning.”
When a Juvenile is Arrested
The right to remain silent and have an attorney have been extended to children by the courts. This is important, as juveniles can face serious consequences and can even be charged as adults and be sentenced to time in adult prison in certain situations. Therefore, it is critical that juveniles do not say anything to law enforcement that may hurt their case or give authorities additional evidence against them.
The problem is that a Miranda warning is a complex legal concept that even many adults do not fully understand, needless to say teenagers or children. Police generally read a standard warning and are not equipped to explain the rights further to suspects in custody. It is all too easy for for a juvenile to misinterpret their Miranda rights or proceed in talking to police without fully understanding their rights or the implications of answering questions.
If a person in custody hears their rights and does not expressly invoke either right, they can still be assumed to waive those rights if they then voluntarily answer police questions. If a juvenile does not understand their rights and keeps talking to police, officers will likely proceed as if the rights were waived. In addition, if a written waiver is presented to a juvenile, they may sign without knowing the implication of doing so.
Fighting Against a Waiver in Court
In order for a waiver of Miranda rights to be upheld in court, however, the waiver is required to be voluntary and “knowing and intelligent.” In order for a waiver to be knowing and intelligent, the suspect must have understood clearly both the nature of their rights and the potential consequences of waiving those rights.
If a juvenile did not understand their rights or the consequences of a waiver because of their age, immaturity, education level, or any other factor, a skilled criminal defense attorney can argue that the Miranda waiver was not valid. If a waiver is found to be invalid, all answers given to police after the waiver will be suppressed and a prosecutor will not be able to use that information against the juvenile. This means that if a juvenile unknowingly waived their rights and then confessed, the confession may be kept out of court. This is often a huge part of a case and the suppression of such evidence may result in charges being dropped.
Should the Miranda Warning be Adapted for Juveniles?
Legal researchers and scholars have advocated for a special version of the Miranda warning to be used in all arrests involving juveniles to ensure that improper waivers do not occur. This involves simplifying the legal language of the warning and explaining the concepts of these rights more thoroughly.
No states have yet adopted a juvenile version of the Miranda warning. However, until they do, defense attorneys can ask courts to consider the age of the juvenile, reading level, any disabilities, and other factors when allowing confessions without an attorney present to be admissible.
Discuss Your Situation with an Experienced Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer
If a juvenile is accused of a serious crime, they can be tried in adult criminal court. This is a frightening situation and they need the most effective defense possible to help them avoid the consequences of a conviction. At The Zeiger Firm in Philadelphia, we skillfully defend against a wide variety of offenses and will fight for the most favorable result in every case. Call our office today at 215-546-0340 to learn more.