Can Police Question a Minor?

Can police question a minor?  Do they have to get parental consent before they begin questioning?  Parents are often shocked to learn that police can question their child without informing the parent or getting the parent’s permission before they question their minor child.

Many parents are stunned when they learn that statements by juveniles are reviewed under the same “totality of the circumstances” test as adults.  Under the totality of the circumstances test the court will consider such factors as the child’s background, experience, conduct, age, length of custody, police misrepresentations, isolation of a minor from his or her parent, threats of violence, and promises of leniency.  Courts generally do not find a juveniles confession involuntary in the absence of evidence of extended, intimidating questioning or some other form of coercion.  To make matter worse, the courts have recognized that deception is an effective interrogation tool and have held that, although a factor to be considered, deception will not render an otherwise voluntary confession inadmissible.  The question is whether the person’s will was overborneState v. Parker, 381 S.C. 68, 671 S.E.2d 619 (Ct.App. 2008).  If someone’s will was overborne then the confession is not admissible against them in court.  I guess this happens but I’ve yet to see it.

Voluntariness of a confession

The test of admissibility of a confession is voluntariness, which requires an examination of the totality of the circumstances.

The totality of the circumstances means the court will look at the below factors:

  • Age of the accused
  • Lack of education or his low intelligence;
  • Lack of advisement of rights;
  • Length of detention;
  • Length of the interrogation;
  • The use of physical punishment such as the deprivation of food or sleep.

Police can misrepresent the facts

Courts have permitted, though disfavored, other forms of deception when obtaining confessions.  South Carolina’s courts have recognized that misrepresentations of evidence by police, although a relevant factor, does not render an otherwise voluntary confession inadmissible.  The pertinent inquiry is whether the defendant’s will was overborne.  What is deception?  Simply that the police can lie about what they know or the evidence they have; such as your friend has already confessed and told us you were involved or did it.  We have recovered the evidence that links you to the crime.

I encounter numerous people that are surprised to learn that police can lie to you during interrogation but you cannot lie to them.  It’s a one-way street.  This fact alone is why I would never advise anyone talk to police while under investigation before they consult with a lawyer.  How is a minor suppose to handle being interrogated by trained adult police officers that can lie about the evidence and what they know about the crime?

What if a child asks for a parent?

A juvenile’s request for a parent may be considered when determining the voluntariness of the confession. This will be one factor that the court will examine under the totality of the circumstances approach to determine if this is an invocation of a right to remain silent.

In South Carolina, police are free to approach any child and question them about a crime, just as they can approach any adult. The rights that a child has are the same as an adult, such as Miranda, and 5th and 6th amendment rights to a lawyer.

Contact a Charleston Juvenile Defense Lawyer

If you have concerns regarding can police question a minor call a Charleston Juvenile Criminal Defense Lawyer, and talk to Charleston Criminal Defense Attorney Dale Savage at (843) 530-7813 or e-mail me for your free consultation, all discussions are confidential.

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