A common misconception many parents have is that police cannot question a child without a parent present. Texas state law allows police to question minors in most situations.
In Texas, police may ask minors questions without parental presence or consent if the interrogation occurs in a non-custodial setting. To meet the qualifications of a non-custodial setting, police must question minors in a setting that meets the following requirements:
• Law enforcement officer has not handcuffed the child.
• Police have not detained the child.
• Police have not placed the child in custody.
Both children and parents often have difficulty determining what counts as a child being taken into custody. Someone accused of juvenile crimes does not have to face formal arrest charges for the police to have them in custody. Typically, the standard involves whether or not the person being questioned feels free to leave. Officers should also read the minor their Miranda rights when placed into custody.
If the person is not free to leave, they may consider themselves in custody. Minors often have difficulty understanding when they may leave a conversation with an adult authority figure.
Under Texas law, police may question your child without your presence or consent at school. Your child does not have to answer the questions, but if the police show up at the school and ask questions and your child willingly answers, the officers may legally use these answers against your child.
Law enforcement officers may use the lack of maturity and understanding against the minor to obtain answers to questions about a crime. One of the defenses against juvenile charges involves invoking the child’s lack of maturity during police questioning of the minor.