Everyone is familiar with the opening lines of the Miranda Rights — you have a right to remain silent, and anything you say can and will be used against you. You have the right to an attorney. You also have the right to have these phrases recited to you if you are arrested or brought in for questioning in a criminal investigation. However, in a juvenile criminal case, it can be much more difficult for a young offender to know what his or her rights are, what these rights mean and how to exercise them.
New Jersey and many other states have strict procedures for how juveniles are interviewed and interrogated in the course of a criminal investigation, and it is critical to understand the extent of these procedures if your child is involved in a criminal case. N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-39 states that juvenile offenders are to be represented by an attorney at every critical point in a pending case, but the determination of what parts count as “critical” is often debated in court. For your safety, you should consider every conversation that a minor has with a police officer, federal investigator or law enforcement official to be critical to your child’s case.
By law, a parent does not have to be present for the police to interrogate or question a juvenile suspect. Any statements made by a juvenile during this unsupervised interrogation can be used later, which is something parents and their children might not be aware of at the time. Basically, any conversation between a minor who is suspected of criminal activity or involvement and an officer or court official can be considered part of that minor’s testimony and can be used in the ensuing investigation.
The Right to an Attorney
In a typical court case, an adult offender is advised of his or her right to retain a lawyer before an officer starts asking questions. As soon as the accused exercises that right and asks for a lawyer, the officer is required to stop asking questions until the attorney arrives. If the accused waives his or her right to counsel, he or she should fully understand that right and the decision to forfeit it.
For a juvenile case, full understanding is a little trickier. Depending on the age of the defendant and his or her familiarity with criminal law (which is likely very minimal), a full understanding of the Miranda rights, and what it means to waive those rights, is not always the case. However, as long as an investigation follows the laws fairly, a child defendant can waive the right to an attorney, or to have his or her parents present, and speak to law enforcement—even if the child doesn’t fully understand how that decision will impact the case.
It’s critical for your child’s case that you get an attorney involved as soon as charges are filed or your child is brought in for questioning in a criminal investigation if not sooner. Any statement that your child makes made can be used against him or her later on in court, and the process of fighting back against an incriminating confession or implication is not an easy one. For more information regarding your child’s rights, contact a Hackensack juvenile lawyer at The Gorman Law Firm today.
Published in Categories: Juvenile Defense