Supreme Court hears criminal defense case involving 13-year-old’s Miranda warning

Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the United States heard a criminal defense case involving whether police were required to give a 13-year-old boy Miranda warnings and whether the young teenager was in custody at the time he was questioned. The justices were divided along political lines as they questioned both sides during the oral arguments. While some justices worried that different standards of Miranda warnings would need to be applied to different age groups, other justices easily thought that a 13-year-old would interpret questioning by a police officer differently than an adult.

The main issue of the case is whether the seventh grade boy with special needs was in custody at the time of questioning and as a result entitled to his Miranda warnings. Miranda warnings protect criminal suspects from giving compelled self-testimony about that which they are accused. Generally, whether a person is “in custody” is determined under a reasonable person standard and whether that person felt free to leave after police questioning begins. Factors in determining custody are the nature of the discussion, length and location.

The 13-year-old boy in the case was believed to be involved in a string of theft cases in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 2005. The boy was taken out of class and brought to a conference room for questioning where a police investigator, assistant principal, school intern and school resource officer were waiting. The four adults asked whether the boy would like to talk about some recent criminal activity. The boy agreed and the door was closed but not locked.

At first the boy denied any involvement in the string of residential robberies but then gave an admission. Afterward, the police officer told the seventh grader he did not have to answer any more questions but the boy continued to talk giving incriminating information. The four adults said the young boy never asked if he could leave the room or stop answering questions. At no point were the boy’s Miranda warnings given and his admission was later admitted as evidence.

Source: CNN, “Justices to decide if age counts for child suspects being questioned,” Bill Mears, 3/23/11

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Stay calm and compose after getting accused of a crime but not charged in Minneapolis, MN. Do not discuss the facts of your case with anyone, including your relatives and family members. Hire a criminal defense attorney with a demonstrated record of winning cases like yours. Your attorney will discuss your rights, guide you on how to cooperate with law enforcement within the legal boundaries, and build a solid defense strategy to fight the charges you could face in the future.
Expungement and sealing of records in Minnesota affect how your criminal history appears to government agencies and the public. The main difference between the two legal actions is that expungement permanently removes past arrests, criminal charges, or convictions from private and public databases, while sealing hides the criminal record from the public. Courts, government entities, and law enforcement agencies can access sealed criminal records.
Minnesota recently passed a public safety bill that brings sweeping changes to the state’s juvenile justice system. While minors sometimes run afoul of the law, the juvenile justice system seeks to account for the differences between children and adults. Therefore, while the penalties for adults convicted of crimes focus on punishment, those for juveniles are aimed at diversion and restorative practices.