NJ Supreme Court issues "appropriate Procedure" in Juvenile Cases
New Jersey juvenile rights are much better than the protections offered by the Federal Constitution.
The law in NJ states: “wherever possible … no child should be interviewed except in the presence of his parents or guardian”.
More specifically, “the product of interrogation of a juvenile under 14 is not admissible in the absence of a parent or legal guardian “unless the adult was unwilling to be present or truly unavailable.” State v Presha, 163 NJ 304, 2000.
What was decided?
In a recent decision, NJ juvenile rights have received more clarity and more protections.
In State in the Interest of A.A. the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a policy for how police handle juvenile interrogations.
Specifically, the Court wrote: ““The police should advise juveniles in the custody of their Miranda rights—in the presence of a parent or legal guardian—before the police question, or a parent speaks with, the juvenile. Officers should then give parents or guardians a meaningful opportunity to consult with the juvenile in private about those rights… That approach would enable parents to help children understand their rights and decide whether to waive them… If law enforcement officers do not allow a parent and juvenile to consult in private, absent a compelling reason, that fact should weigh heavily in the totality of the circumstances to determine whether the juvenile’s waiver and statements were voluntary.””
The Court has taken bold steps in making certain that NJ juvenile rights are clear to law enforcement.
Facts of the case
A.A. was 15 years old when the police detained him on murder charges.
His mother went to visit him in the police station holding cell. The only thing she was told was that her son “shot someone.”
Five police officers were in the room within 10 to 15 feet of A.A. and his mother while the two spoke.
A detective testified that he overheard the conversation and that the mother began to cry and left the room.
A.A. never received his Miranda.
The Family Part judge admitted the statements upon finding there was no “police interrogation or its functional equivalent,” and therefore no Miranda warnings were required.
In concluding that the juvenile’s statements were both inadmissible and were not harmless at the juvenile’s hearing, the Supreme Court repeated prior holdings that interrogation includes not only direct questioning but also “any words or actions on the part of the police … that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response,” and in the case of a juvenile, that an admission “must be voluntary, in the sense not only that it was not coerced or suggested, but also that it was not the product of ignorance of rights or of adolescent fantasy, fright or despair.”
New Jersey Supreme Court's Conclusion
In closing, the New Jersey Supreme Court wrote:
“We can envision nothing more appropriate or fair in the administration of juvenile justice. Independent of the right to counsel, a juvenile is entitled to meaningful support and assistance from a caring parent or guardian before saying anything to a police officer, as well as anything that can be heard or overheard, while in custody.“
important tip: Be Patient! You will Get Your Day in Court
Any juvenile lawyer will tell you that when you talk to a police officer, everything you say can & will be used against you.
Do not try to explain your story to a police officer. There is always time for that.
If you make a mistake while you are telling your story to a police officer, this becomes evidence against you.
As criminal lawyers, we are here to help you.
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