It can come as a surprise to a parent or guardian if their child has been questioned by the police without their presence. According to New Jersey law, however, a parent does not always need to be present for the police to question a juvenile and the statements that a juvenile makes could be used in a court of law.
Despite these rules that put the situation squarely in the hands of the authorities, the juvenile does have access to certain legal protections that could be relevant later. If a child under the age of 14 confesses to a crime or infraction, it is legally inadmissible in New Jersey unless a parent or legal guardian was not willing to be present or had a legitimate excuse for being unable to appear during the interrogation.
Miranda Rights for Juveniles
We can all recite the opening lines of the Miranda rights when someone is placed under arrest, “You have the right to remain silent…” from countless television shows using it in their scripts. In the case of an adult over age 18, this means that he or she doesn’t have to say anything to the police without an attorney present. For an adult to waive these rights, he or she must acknowledge that they understand the rights as they’ve been presented by the arresting officer.
In the case of a juvenile, however, the officer is allowed to question the youth even if the youth doesn’t waive them or understand them. As long as the procedures were undertaken with what is known as the “utmost fairness” with consideration given to the circumstances surrounding the arrest and interrogation, they can be questioned. If the interrogating officer exerts improper influence, mental or physical coercion or standards of due process are violated, then there is cause to believe that the interrogation was unlawful. The police must read the Miranda rights to an underage person, but fairness is the overriding factor in the interrogation and not whether the youth clearly understood his or her rights under the law.
A Child Can Waive Miranda Rights and Parents Need Not Always be Present
In New Jersey, the child is capable of waiving the Miranda rights. Statements he or she makes will be admissible even if the underage person didn’t understand what he or she was doing. Waiving these rights, though, must be done voluntarily. When determining whether the waiver of the rights was valid, it is up to the court to decide based on the child’s mental capacity, age, education, social background and experience. In general, a parent or guardian is required to be present for the underage youth to be questioned, but there are instances when this is not completely necessary. They include when:
- The parents refuse to attend;
- The child refuses to tell the authorities the name and address of his or her parents; or
- The parents cannot be located after a good faith effort.
Protect Your Child With a Juvenile Defense Attorney
No matter the circumstances of the questioning, it is key to have qualified legal representation to assist an underage youth when he or she has been questioned by the police. The law office of Villani & DeLuca of Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey has a long track record of representing people in New Jersey in situations such as this.
Because the police may have used gray areas to question an underage person and perhaps extract a confession doesn’t mean the youth’s rights have been violated. When a juvenile is detained and questioned for any crime—no matter how serious or trivial—the parent or guardian must do everything to protect the child under their care. If your child has been interrogated in Ocean County or Monmouth County, you should schedule a consultation with the juvenile defense attorneys of Villani & DeLuca to protect your child. It can be important for their future. Call today!