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Are juveniles protected against self-incrimination?

On Behalf of | Jun 18, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Juveniles who have been taken into custody on criminal charges are often under a great deal of pressure to confess to an alleged offense. Just like adults are, they are protected by the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, but they may not be aware of this, and in some cases law enforcement authorities do not let them know that they are. As such, if this happens in Texas, legal assistance might be necessary.

Juveniles can self-incriminate under certain circumstances

Just like any other individual, minors can choose to incriminate themselves once they have been taken into custody on the suspicion of having committed juvenile crimes, and they have a right to counsel as well. They can voluntarily waive their constitutional rights but there are some caveats. Under certain circumstances, a confession by a juvenile will not be allowed.

All confessions by juveniles must:

• Be completely voluntary in nature.
• Be made without fear.
• Be made with a solid understanding of the consequences of that confession, and with an understanding of the legal rights available to the juvenile making them.

Judges typically look closely at juvenile confessions

As a result of their age, lack of experience, and particular vulnerability to authority figures, confessions by juveniles are often looked at with deeper scrutiny than those by adults. Indeed, there have been prior cases in which juvenile confessions were thrown out, with observers noting that juveniles often lack the critical thinking skills and cognitive maturity to appropriately evaluate the risks of a confession. For example, Miranda warnings are a requirement for any juvenile confession, but they must be given to a juvenile in a manner that they understand. As such, a simple recitation may not be enough to sustain a juvenile confession.

This can be a particularly thorny issue. If you are a parent of a child who has been taken into custody and are afraid that their rights may have been violated, you might want to discuss this matter with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.