Juveniles who have been taken into custody in connection with a criminal charge present special procedural issues. Ideally, a parent or guardian has to be present before the police can question them. Alternatively, the police have to show that they used their best efforts to contact a parent or guardian before any questioning can occur. The purpose of this is so that the parent or guardian can assist the juvenile in making an intelligent and informed decision concerning whether to waive their Miranda rights and respond to questions asked by law enforcement. State v. AA, which our Supreme Court decided in January, 2020, expands the protections afforded juveniles concerning this very sensitive issue.
The two questions before the Court were as follows: Whether law enforcement engaged in the functional equivalent of interrogation when they permitted the juvenile’s mother, who had been called to the police station, to speak with her 15-year-old son who was in custody before the police had read the juvenile his Miranda rights; and Did the fact that AA and his mother had no privacy during their conversation necessitate the adoption of a “private consultation” rule requiring the police to give the juvenile and the adult a meaningful opportunity to speak privately before asking the juvenile whether they wish to waive their Miranda rights?
The Court held that the actions of law enforcement in this case constituted the functional equivalent of interrogation; accordingly, the unwarned statements that AA made to his mother should have been suppressed. Further, the Court expanded the protections afforded juveniles by now requiring the police to advise a juvenile in custody of their Miranda rights in the presence of a parent or guardian before the police ask the juvenile any questions, or before the parent or guardian speaks with the juvenile. The police must then give the parent or guardian and the juvenile a meaningful opportunity to speak privately concerning whether or not the rights will be waived and questioning may proceed.