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Posted on January 6, 2017 in Juvenile Crimes

Can the Police Question a Minor Before Contacting Their Parents?

Interactions between police officers and youths often raise certain questions of consent and parental rights. Parents may feel that officers have infringed upon their rights and the rights of their minor child when police question a child before notifying the parents. It often feels like police officers take advantage of nervous, scared, or unsuspecting minors to hear the answers they want. However, there is no federal or Arizona state law that prohibits police officers from questioning a juvenile before contacting a parent. Therefore, it is important to understand the Arizona juvenile rights each minor has and how to respond in the case of criminal suspicions.

Police Officers and Juvenile Law

Netflix’s Making a Murderer documentary highly publicized one case of police officers interrogating a minor without parental consent, eventually resulting in a false confession from sixteen-year-old Brendan Dassey. Cases like Dassey’s have led to widespread parental concern about the civil rights of minor children. While there are laws for how a law officer can treat a minor, there’s nothing preventing an officer from speaking to a juvenile or asking him/her questions. An officer does not need a parent’s permission to question a minor.

If an interview with a minor results in a criminal charge, the court will consider whether or not police contacted parents prior to questioning in the decision to admit a child’s statement or confession. A minor has Miranda rights just as an adult does during police questioning. However, police officers do not have to read a child Miranda rights if the child is not in custody. Yet the Supreme Court recently ruled that children whom the police question are more likely to consider themselves “in custody” than adults in the same situation. In these cases, an officer would legally have to read a child his/her rights prior to questioning.

According to Miranda warnings, an officer has the right to question a child but not to force or coerce answers. A child does not have to answer questions. Many parents argue, however, that officers cannot expect children to understand their Miranda rights. If a child agrees to speak to police, even informally, officers can use anything he or she says against the child in court. This is only true if police have not arrested the child or coerced a statement.

If police do detain, arrest, or take a child into custody (or do something to make the child feel that he or she was in custody), any statements that the child makes will only be admissible if police first read the Miranda rights.

Defenses for Juvenile Crimes

If the Phoenix Police Department brings charges against your minor child and mentions statements your child made during discussions with police officers you did not authorize, contact a defense attorney. It is possible that the courts will throw out any statements your child made during questioning by police if your child felt that he or she was in custody but the officer did not read the child’s Miranda rights. The courts might also not admit a child’s statements if there is evidence of an officer forcing a child to answer questions or coercing certain answers.

In some situations, parents may have grounds for a civil suit against the governmental body or individual officer. While police officers are legally allowed to approach and question minors, there are certain rules they must follow during questioning. An officer may not, for example, refuse to allow a child to call his/her parents or talk to an attorney. In these situations, parents can file a complaint with the local government.

Furthermore, if the police detain a child and deprive him/her of food, water, or rest during interrogation, parents can file a lawsuit for violation of a child’s civil rights. Contact a juvenile crimes attorney in Phoenix right away if you have issues regarding police questioning your child without permission or if you need legal assistance with juvenile law defense. Juvenile crimes in Phoenix can be a serious offense and it is important to understand and relay Arizona juvenile rights to your children.