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How the states handle interrogation of juvenile suspects

Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of being questioned by law enforcement officials, or who has even just provided a witness statement or filed a report knows how intimidating the experience can be. Indeed, everything from the bright lights and undeniably claustrophobic feel of the interrogation room to the grim expressions and cold questioning of the officers can rapidly make any individual feel very uncomfortable.

As unnerving as it can be for adults, imagine how much worse it can be for juveniles, many of whom are scared, alone, and lacking a complete understanding of the process and, more importantly, everything that is at stake.

This naturally raises the question as to what protections, if any, the states afford to juveniles in the situations.

As it turns out, 24 states currently have laws on the books mandating that law enforcement must inform parents that their child has been detained and allow them to be present during any subsequent interrogations.

19 states also have laws requiring police to record any juvenile interrogations, while 17 also have laws dictating that the Miranda warnings read to adults, which set forth their rights under the Fifth Amendment, must be rewritten in language that is more readily comprehensible to minors.

Despite the existence of these types of laws, the unfortunate reality is that many juvenile suspects still end up succumbing to the pressure of the situation, falsely confessing to often serious crimes, and wrongly spending years or even decades behind bars.

In recognition of this tragic situation, several states have begun considering laws that would further strengthen the rights of juveniles detained and questioned by the police.

Indeed, a new law went into effect in Illinois this past August requiring simplified Miranda language for all juveniles, the recording of all juvenile interrogations concerning felony-level crimes and, most significantly, an attorney to be present during the interrogations of any juveniles under 15 in connection with a sex crime or homicide.

We'll continue this discussion in our next post, exploring what the law here in Tennessee has to say concerning juvenile interrogations.

In the meantime, if you've been detained or charged in connection with any manner of criminal offense, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible to help ensure the protection of your rights.

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Mr. McKellar was voted by his peers as a “Top Attorney” by Knoxville’s CityView magazine in its 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 editions. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, Mr. McKellar was selected as a member of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” by the National Trial Lawyers.

Ms. Easter was voted by her peers as a “Top Attorney” in Cityview Magazine for Family Law / Divorce / Child Support in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

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