Miranda Warnings for Kids

The Right to Remain Silent… this is the first in a series of four advisory statements a police officer must read to you if you are in custody and if the police officer wishes to interrogate you. These are call Miranda Warnings.

If police fail to read the Miranda Warnings before questioning an in-custody suspect, then a court may decide to suppress whatever statements the person may have made.

The central question in any determination of whether to suppress such statements is whether the person was “in custody”. What does “in custody” mean?

Chapel Hill police suspected a seventh-grade student of breaking into several houses. An police investigator went to the student’s school and had him removed from class and led to a conference room by a school resource officer (who was a police officer). The investigator questioned the juvenile in the presence of the SRO, the assistant principal, and an intern. The door of the conference room where the interview took place was closed but not locked. The juvenile was not given Miranda warnings or the “juvenile Miranda” warnings required prior to custodial interrogations by G.S. 7B-2101, and he made incriminating statements. He was allowed to leave and catch the bus home, but later was charged. He moved to suppress his statements based on the lack of Miranda and statutory warnings.

The North Carolina Supreme Court held that because there were non-police individuals – namely the administrator – present during the interrogation, it was not an in-custody interrogation. The North Carolina Supreme Court essentially held that courts do not need to look at the age of the person who has been questioned to determine whether the person believed he was in custody or not.

However, the Supreme Court held that “a child’s age properly informs the Miranda custody analysis,” so long as the child’s age is known to police or reasonably apparent. It noted that children are “more susceptible to influence . . . and outside pressures” than adults, making the Miranda warnings important in a broader range of settings. And it suggested that it required no more than common sense for officers and judges to take a suspect’s age into consideration when deciding whether a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would feel as though he or she were under arrest or the equivalent.

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Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.