The Supreme Court recently held that police may have to give Miranda warnings to children and teenagers, even when the police would not normally give the warning to an adult in an identical circumstance.
The 5-4 majority, led by Justice Sotomayor, ruled that children are not “miniature adults” and often view interactions with police differently that the “reasonable adult” that is the focus of a normal Miranda analysis. “A reasonable child subjected to police questioning will sometimes feel pressured to submit when a reasonable adult would feel free to go.”
Miranda warnings, of course, only apply in situations of custodial interrogations – where the police are questioning a person, and a reasonable person would not feel free to terminate the encounter with the police. Children have a different view of what they can and cannot do when in the presence of police.
In this North Carolina case, J.D.B. v. North Carolina, a 13 year-old, in seventh grade, was taken out of class and questioned by police for over half an hour. He had no attorney, no parent, or no guardian present. The adolescent eventually confessed to a theft, after police threatened that the student might face time in juvenile detention.