The questioning of minors by law enforcement officers

Most Illinois residents will likely be familiar with the Miranda warning. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miranda v. Arizona that police must advise individuals that they have the right to remain silent and speak with an attorney when they are taken into custody, and any incriminating statements made prior to these rights being explained could be ruled inadmissible. Arguments about the admissibility of statements made before a Miranda warning is given often hinge on whether or not a suspect was in custody at the time, and these arguments become more complex when the suspect in question is a minor.

The courts rely on the reasonable person standard when deciding these matters. While being arrested and placed in handcuffs would definitely be considered taking a suspect into custody, the Miranda warning will also be required in a situation where a reasonable person would not feel that they are able to end an interrogation and leave. However, what a reasonable adult would believe may not be the same as what a minor accused of committing a juvenile crime would believe.

The U.S. Supreme Court provided guidance in a 2011 decision. The case involved a 13-year-old student who admitted to participating in two burglaries during a police interview conducted at his school. The court ruled that police should take a suspect's age into consideration when deciding if a Miranda warning is required because minors often have a greater deference to authority.

Law enforcement officers must work within strict boundaries established by the U.S. Constitution and legal precedent, and a criminal defense attorney could seek to have evidence excluded when the rights of defendants may have been violated. A defense attorney could closely scrutinize police reports, search warrant applications and interview transcripts in order to seek to have criminal charges reduced or dismissed in situations where the actions of police officers could have gone beyond the limits established by law.

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