Getting arrested is a scary thing, for anyone. Now imagine how it would feel for a kid. An authority figure confronts you, tells you that you did something wrong, and then asked a bunch of questions. Your body would probably experience some level of shock. You may not think clearly or understand what is happening.
In this situation, how can we possibly expect these kids to understand what the Miranda means?
Way back, fifty years ago, the Supreme Court essentially decided that anyone who is under arrest should have some basic rights. They should have the right not to answer questions, the right to legal counsel, and they have the right to know anything they say could be used against them.
But do kids really understand what this means? If a police officer reads these rights and then barrels right into a slew of questions will the kid know that they can stay quiet, that they do not have to answer? What if their parents raised them to respect adults, especially police, and they think it would be disrespectful not to answer? Are their rights met in this situation?
The American Bar Association (ABA), a group of legal professionals, recently dove into this issue. They found that stress reduces the ability to comprehend what is going on by at least 20% and that adolescents are easier to coerce compared to their adult peers. This can mean kids will say things that they don’t really mean when in this situation.
This is one of the big reasons juveniles who are facing criminal charges should hire legal counsel to help build a defense. This, likely the first interaction with police during the event that led to criminal charges, may have already put the kid at a disadvantage. An attorney can review how the process went and discuss options on how to handle this as well as other parts of the case.