Confessions And Your Child’s Miranda Rights

Barnes & Fersten Law Firm

Barnes & Fersten Law Firm

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The criminal justice system in the United States is based on the premise that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. This includes minors, who are protected by a number of constitutional rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. If your child is arrested, it is important that you understand these rights and what you can do to protect your child’s interests. In this blog post, we will explain your child’s Miranda rights and how a juvenile defense attorney can help ensure that these rights are protected.

Miranda Rights For Juveniles

If your child made any sort of verbal or written confession, in circumstances when your child was entitled to his or her Miranda rights, the burden is on the State to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that your child waived those rights. Your child’s waiver of your child’s Miranda rights must be made voluntarily after being made fully aware of the nature of the right being abandoned and the consequences of the decision to abandon that right. Thus, this is why when an officer reads you your child’s Miranda rights the officer must inform you that anything you say may be used against you in court.

When Must Miranda Rights Be Given?

An officer does not need to mirandize your child immediately upon talking to your child or during the initial investigation into your child’s alleged actions.

There are two requirements to proving that your child was entitled to be advised of his or her Miranda rights: (1) that your child was in custody; and (2) that your child was being interrogated. If both conditions are met, the officer’s failure to mirandize your child makes any statements your child made subject to suppression. This is especially true for children who courts view as more easily manipulated by law enforcement and are less likely to understand and assert his or her rights against an authoritative police officer and/or principal.

(1) Custody requirement

Your child’s lawyer should focus on the facts specific to your child’s case to prove that he or she was in custody any time that your child made any statements against your child’s interest or any admissions.

You are “in custody” when, under the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable person in your child’s position would consider himself or herself deprived of freedom of movement to a degree associated with a formal arrest. For example, if the police officer retains your child’s driver’s license during a traffic stop, then for Miranda purposes, your child is considered in custody because no reasonable person would believe that he or she could simply terminate the encounter by asking the officer to return their license and because driving without a license is an additional traffic violation.

Courts in the state of Tennessee look at the totality of the circumstances to determine whether a child is “in custody” when they are being questioned at their school by a principal, or authority figure, with a police officer or resource officer. The general rule is that a child is in custody if they are confined to the principal’s office or some other room in the school for questioning because the child would not feel free to leave without consequence.

(2) Interrogation requirement

This requirement does not mean that your child was in a room alone with the officer for hours being interrogated. Instead, an individual is the subject of an “interrogation” whenever a police officer asks questions that is reasonably likely to elicit incriminating information while that person is also in custody.

If your child made any admissions to the officer during the investigation your child’s lawyer should evaluate whether a Miranda issue exists. Your child’s lawyer should understand Miranda and the ways to skillfully and persuasively argue that you were entitled to Miranda rights before your child’s incriminating statement was made by you.

When Must Miranda Rights Be Given?

An officer does not need to mirandize your child immediately upon talking to your child or during the initial investigation into your child’s alleged actions.

There are two requirements to proving that your child was entitled to be advised of his or her Miranda rights: (1) that your child was in custody; and (2) that your child was being interrogated. If both conditions are met, the officer’s failure to mirandize your child makes any statements your child made subject to suppression. This is especially true for children who courts view as more easily manipulated by law enforcement and are less likely to understand and assert his or her rights against an authoritative police officer and/or principal.

(1) Custody requirement

Your child’s lawyer should focus on the facts specific to your child’s case to prove that he or she was in custody any time that your child made any statements against your child’s interest or any admissions.

You are “in custody” when, under the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable person in your child’s position would consider himself or herself deprived of freedom of movement to a degree associated with a formal arrest. For example, if the police officer retains your child’s driver’s license during a traffic stop, then for Miranda purposes, your child is considered in custody because no reasonable person would believe that he or she could simply terminate the encounter by asking the officer to return their license and because driving without a license is an additional traffic violation.

Courts in the state of Tennessee look at the totality of the circumstances to determine whether a child is “in custody” when they are being questioned at their school by a principal, or authority figure, with a police officer or resource officer. The general rule is that a child is in custody if they are confined to the principal’s office or some other room in the school for questioning because the child would not feel free to leave without consequence.

(2) Interrogation requirement

This requirement does not mean that your child was in a room alone with the officer for hours being interrogated. Instead, an individual is the subject of an “interrogation” whenever a police officer asks questions that is reasonably likely to elicit incriminating information while that person is also in custody.

If your child made any admissions to the officer during the investigation your child’s lawyer should evaluate whether a Miranda issue exists. Your child’s lawyer should understand Miranda and the ways to skillfully and persuasively argue that you were entitled to Miranda rights before your child’s incriminating statement was made by you.

My child told the officer that he or she was invoking his or her right to remain silent and then later on my child made incriminating statements, they cannot use those statements against my child, right?

(1) Right to remain silent

This is a situation that is extremely fact specific. Generally, once an individual invokes their right to remain silent, an officer cannot ask questions that are likely to elicit an incriminating response for the full time that your child is in custody plus an additional 14 hours. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if your child invokes his or her right to remain silent but then later begins speaking to the officer on his or her own, without being interrogated, then the statements may or may not be subject to suppression.

(2) Right to a lawyer

Similarly, if your child invokes his or her right to a lawyer, your child cannot be questioned about the specific crime that your child was arrested for committing without your child’s lawyer present, after your child is advised of his or her Miranda rights.

However, exceptions to this rule exist as well. For example, an officer may question your child about another crime separate from the crime that caused your child to be in custody without there being a violation. In these instances, it is important that your child’s lawyer analyzes the facts to determine whether a breach that entitles your child to suppression of his or her statements exists.

My child asked for a lawyer, but the officer continued to interrogate my child, they cannot use my child’s statements against my child right?

Once your child states unequivocally that he or she wants a lawyer, all questioning must stop. An issue exists where your child makes statements such as “I think I need a lawyer now,” because your child must clearly and unequivocally state “I want a lawyer” for questioning to stop.

Overall, your child may be entitled to a suppression of statements that your child made even before he or she was mirandized. As such, your child’s lawyer must always be weary of the circumstances under which your child made his or her admission or statement against interest.

Can my child be questioned without a parent present?

You are likely frustrated by an officer questioning your minor child without your permission and presence. Unfortunately, the answer is yes, an officer may question your child after reading your child his or her Miranda rights without your presence.

However, even if your child was read Miranda rights and waived his or her rights to talk to the police, your child’s statements may potentially not be admissible if you were not present. The court looks at the totality of the circumstances to determine if your child’s waiver of his or her Miranda rights was a valid waiver by looking at factors such as: (1). Your child’s age, experience, education and intelligence; (2) the juvenile’s capacity to understand the Miranda warnings and consequences of a waiver; (3) the juvenile’s familiarity with the Miranda warnings or ability to read and write in the language used to give the warnings; (4) any intoxication; (5) any mental disease, disorder or retardation; and (6) the presence of a parent, guardian or interested adult.

Thus, it is imperative that your child’s lawyer does not only question your child about whether your child was read his or her Miranda rights and whether your child agreed to talk to the police anyways, but that your child’s attorney asks questions based on the 6 factors outlined above. The answers to those questions may result in your child’s statements being suppressed or may provide your child’s attorney with leverage to use to reach a favorable negotiated resolution of your child’s case. As such, a juvenile criminal defense lawyer that is aware of the law specific to juveniles can help your child reach a favorable outcome in their case.

Please give us a call to discuss your child’s case.  You can also text or email.  Our number is (865) 800-8276.

Attorney At Law, Managing Partner

Brandon D. Fersten is an esteemed Knoxville attorney practicing DUIcriminal defense, and juvenile law. Known for his empathetic approach and commitment to his clients, he brings a record of favorable case outcomes including dismissals and not guilty verdicts at jury trials resulting in Brandon being recognized as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” in Criminal Defense, U.S. News’ Best Lawyers: “Ones to Watch,” and Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars”. Brandon’s professional accolades, combined with his passion for justice, position him as a reliable criminal defense advocate in the East Tennessee legal landscape.