Are Police Allowed to Question My Child if I’m Not Present?

November 7, 2019

There are some circumstances in which police might need to question children about their involvement in a crime or what they witnessed when criminal activity occurred. Parents often question whether police are allowed to interrogate their children without them being present, even if their juvenile defense attorney in Rockford, IL is in the room. The answer is yes—though there are some important rules about police questioning that everyone should know.

Police are allowed to approach children, or anyone, and ask them about their involvement in a crime or about their role as a witness. But just as adults are allowed to decline to answer questions, children are also not required to answer. Children, like adults, are also able to request that a lawyer or parent be present. That parent or attorney can then refuse to allow the child to answer questions.

Police should honor the wishes of a child who requests an attorney or a parent, but they are under no obligation to contact parents to obtain their permission before approaching the child to ask questions.

Understanding voluntary statements

If children do decide to talk with police but have not been placed under arrest, they are free to go at any time. However, any voluntary statements they make to police while not detained can later be used against him or her in court, because police did not have to use coercion to extract those statements.

The voluntary nature of these statements is crucial. These statements can only be used against the child when they have been made voluntarily. If the child was forced to answer questions or was tricked into admitting against their will to committing a crime, the statements would then be inadmissible in court, as they would violate the child’s Fifth Amendment rights that protect citizens from bearing witness against themselves.

Keep in mind that the court processes for children can be a bit different than for adults. Most children will not face a full-on criminal proceeding, but will instead have a case in which they’ve committed a crime handled in juvenile court. The stakes in juvenile court are lower—punishments include counseling, probation and community service.

If police do decide to take a child into custody or take action that would make any reasonable person believe they were being taken into custody, any questioning is then considered custodial interrogation. In these circumstances, statements made by the child would only be admissible in court if the child was given his or her Miranda rights, which include the child’s right to remain silent and speak with an attorney. Any evidence gained from questioning without having read the child his or her Miranda rights is inadmissible for court.

As you can see, many of the rules for questioning children are the same as those for questioning adults. As parents, it is important to understand that police do not need to seek out your permission to question your child. An experienced juvenile defense attorney in Rockford, IL can provide additional information about your child’s legal rights. Contact the Law Office of Brendan W. Caver, Ltd. to learn more.

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