American Bar Association Urges Supreme Court to Consider Unique Characteristics of Children in Determining Miranda Custody and Questioning
CHICAGO, Dec. 23, 2010 – The American Bar Association today urged the Supreme Court of the United States to reverse a decision of the Supreme Court of North Carolina that held that age could not be considered in making a Miranda custody determination in a case involving a 13-year old who was questioned by a police officer in a school conference room, in the presence of another police officer and the school’s vice principal. In its amicus filing in J.D.B. v. State of North Carolina, the ABA requests the high court reverse the decision, and hold that a Miranda custody determination for persons under the age of 18 must include a determination of whether a reasonable person of that age would have felt free to terminate police questioning and leave.
The question of whether age may be considered in a Miranda custody determination was left open by the U.S. Supreme Court in prior case law. The ABA’s amicus brief cites work done by the ABA and research studies that show that juveniles differ from adults developmentally, in ways that make them “more susceptible to influence and intimidation, and more likely to falsely confess to an offense they did not commit.” The factors discussed include diminished maturity, self-restraint, experience, judgment and decision-making capability, reduced capacity to assist in their own defense, and less appreciation of the long-term consequences of their actions. The filed amicus brief is available here.
The ABA has adopted a number of policies relating to improvement of the juvenile justice system, and the brief cites the association’s Juvenile Justice Standards as well as a report by the ABA Task Force on Youth in the Criminal Justice System: Guidelines for Policymakers and Practitioners, adopted by the association’s policymaking House of Delegates in 2002.
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