Recent decisions to make changes to the criminal justice system affect both adult and juvenile offenders. Young persons could make mistakes that get them into trouble with the law. Regardless of any circumstances surrounding a juvenile’s arrest, the young person still has his or her Constitutional rights. However, the juvenile might not fully understand how to exercise those rights or the dangers of waiving them. In California, lawmakers took a step to address potential civil rights violations when a juvenile faces arrest.
Legal representation and the Miranda rights
In 2017, California lawmakers banned police officers from interrogating a juvenile offender under the age of 16 until they speak to an attorney about their rights. In 2020, a revision changed the age to those under 18.
When the police arrest someone, they must read the individual their Miranda rights. Those rights include the right to remain silent and be represented by an attorney even if the suspect cannot afford one. Suspects can waive their Miranda rights, which some may do if they already understand them. However, someone who doesn’t entirely comprehend those rights may still waive them, with potentially troubling consequences.
Protecting a young person’s civil rights
Someone accused of juvenile crimes might not understand what their rights are. A young person who does not understand the right to remain silent could incriminate him or herself. The youth may allow the police to conduct questioning without an attorney present.
Unfortunately, police officers may attempt to coerce a confession or procure incriminating statements through deception. Doing so may prove easier when a youth does not comprehend how Constitutional rights work. Since state law requires a consultation with an attorney before law enforcement officers perform questioning, those rights may end up preserved.