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Police Questioning of Minors and Adolescents

Daniel Noffsinger - Monday, May 02, 2016

I am often asked by friends and family about police questioning minors or adolescents. As more crimes committed by younger people are being exposed by the media and Hollywood, I find that there is a great deal of confusion regarding the role of the police and parents in the investigation and interrogation of criminal activity. While highly entertaining, the Internet, Wikipedia, Facebook and television crime shows do not adequately present the constitutional rights of minors or adolescents. So, a review of the law and its protections is necessary. As with all Internet postings, nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. Every situation is unique. Contact an experienced criminal attorney to discuss the specifics of your child or adolescent’s case.

All Voluntary Statements are Admissible

The general guideline is that any and all statements made to police whether uttered by a child, adolescent, or adult can be used against him or her in criminal proceedings provided that the statements are voluntarily and freely given. Additional rights and protections attach to a child, adolescent, or adult depending on whether or not he or she is in police custody.

Miranda Warning or Rights and Custodial Interrogation

A Miranda Warning is a statement made by police to a criminal suspect during an arrest that advises that he or she is under arrest, has the right to remain silent, has the right to consult an attorney, and that any statements made by the criminal suspect can be used against him or her in court.

If a child or adolescent is in fact arrested, detained, or taken into custody, or if a reasonable person in that situation would believe that he or she is in custody and not free to leave, any questioning in that situation is considered custodial interrogation. The child or adolescent must first be read the Miranda Warning for the statements to be admissible.

Informal Questioning and Voluntary Statements to Police

The grey area however is when the police informally question a child or adolescent and then that child or adolescent provides a voluntary statement to police. The police are free to approach any child or adolescent and question him or her about whether he or she was involved in a crime. Parental consent is not necessary. Any statement provided by the child or adolescent to the police, if freely given and voluntary, is admissible whether or not a parent or attorney is present.

When a child or adolescent is being informally questioned by police, the child or adolescent can do the following:

  • Refuse to answer any questions;
  • Request a parent or attorney be present during the questioning; or
  • A parent or attorney can refuse to allow the child or adolescent to answer any questions.
When the Police Conduct Improper Questioning

If the police arrest or detain a child and refuse the child’s request to call his or her parents, another adult, or an attorney, the child or adolescent’s civil rights are violated and his or her statements can be kept out of court. The child or adolescent’s parents can also file a complaint against the police department or local government.

Contact a Colorado Springs Criminal Defense Attorney

If your child or adolescent has been arrested or is involved in a criminal investigation or proceeding, contact Noffsinger Law to schedule a free 45 minute consultation. Located in Colorado Springs, we are open weekdays to address your inquiries. Visit us online or call (719) 368-3688 to schedule your case evaluation.