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JUVENILES 15 AND UNDER MUST BE ALLOWED TO CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY BEFORE BEING INTERROGATED BY THE POLICE

Under new legislation, youth 15 years of age and under must be provided a consultation with a lawyer before being interrogated and waiving their Miranda rights.  As we all know, the Miranda case held that if someone is in custody and being interrogated by the police they must be told that they have a right to an attorney before questioning and that they have a right to remain silent.  

Starting in 2018 under Senate Bill 395, youthful suspects who are 15 years old and under must be given an attorney prior to custodial interrogation by law enforcement.  The only exception to this new rule is for public safety.

If the Public Safety exception applies, the interrogation can go forward without an attorney consultation.  This exception is very limited.  The police officer must reasonably believe that the information given by the minor is necessary to protect life or property from an imminent threat of harm.  Plus, the questions can only be about the imminent threat and how to prevent harm from it.

Interestingly, the failure of law enforcement to comply with SB395 does not require that the statements be kept out of court.  However, in a motion to exclude the statements, the age and non-compliance must be considered by the court before the statements are admitted against the youthful suspect.

How this new law is implemented will determine how effective it is in protecting the rights of minors who are 15 years or under.  If law enforcement decides the law doesn’t have any force behind it then it’s likely to be ignored.  

It will be critical to have a defense lawyer fight for the full coverage of the youthful suspect’s rights so law enforcement and the courts have to abide by it.