Just like adults, minors can be contacted by the police and, yes, the police can do so without obtaining permission of the parent or having a parent present during questioning. However, like adults, minors are protected by the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, and can also refuse to speak to the police, including a school resource officer, and may request a parent or lawyer’s presence prior to and during any questioning.
Police Questioning a Child as a Witness or Victim of a Crime
Kids under the age of 18 may sometimes be stopped and questioned by police as witnesses to a crime or perhaps even as victims of crime. Many parents wonder what their child’s legal rights are if they are questioned by police.
There are many good reasons a parent may have for being cautious when their child is questioned by police. They may fear their child will be retaliated against for providing information that incriminates a classmate or friend. They may worry that the police will traumatize their child if questioning goes too far. Some parents even have concerns that any interaction with the police department can spell trouble – that just being on the radar of an over-zealous officer can lead to accusations against their child for something they did not do.
If your child is being questioned by police, the best rule of thumb is to speak with an attorney for advice on how to handle situations involving the police. Let your child know that they can decline to speak to law enforcement and they may request a parent or attorney’s presence during any questioning.
Police Questioning a Minor Suspected of Committing a Crime
Up to now, we have discussed what rights your child has if being questioned as a witness or victim of a crime, but what if your child had some knowledge of or involvement in a crime? If a child has any level of involvement in a crime, anything he or she says voluntarily to police can be used against him or her in court.
When a child is questioned, detained (not free to leave) or arrested, in connection to a crime, they have the right to remain silent and should know so. They have a right to request a parent or attorney be present, knowing that if their request falls on deaf ears, the police department or local government may be subject to a serious legal complaint and any admissions they make may not be admissible in court.
However, righting the wrong when it comes to a violation of Constitutional rights is an uphill battle, so the more you and your child know about your rights under the law when interacting with law enforcement, the more likely your child will be protected from prosecution. If your child has knowledge of or has involvement in a crime, it is imperative to work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights. If your underage teenager has a run-in with law enforcement, is being investigated, questioned, has been detained or arrested in connection with a crime, contact Wisconsin juvenile defense lawyer Andrew C. Ladd for immediate assistance at 262-542-3900.