Jan Hoffman of The New York Times reported on the issue of juveniles not understanding their rights when questioned by the police. The studies show that a juvenile is not developmentally ready to make decisions that will impact their life forever. One common misconception is that the parents must be present when their child is questioned by the police so the parents can protect their child. It is simply not the case. In fact , most police detectives go to the child’s school to question the child. No parents are present and school administrators are compliant.
“Adolescents are more oriented to the present, so they are less likely than adults to be thinking about the future consequences of what they’re saying,” said Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University who writes about teenagers in the justice system and was not involved in this study.
Teenagers, he added, are also less likely than adults to know that the police can lie during interrogations.
“The police often promise kids things in the present. ‘If you just tell me you did it, you can go see your mom,’ ” he continued. “And because the brain’s reward systems are hypersensitive during adolescence, that immediate reward of confessing will trump the thinking of, ‘What will happen when I come back to court in a month?’ ”
The research shows that juveniles have a limited capacity to understand their constitutional rights to remain silent .What should you tell your child to do if they are questioned by police ?
Dr. Steinberg suggests that parents tell teenagers: “If you’re being questioned by police because they think you’ve done something bad, say you need to talk to your parents first.” Parents can decide whether to call a lawyer.
The American Psychological Association has proposed some guidelines for interrogated juveniles:
- Limiting the length of the interviews.
- Videotaping the complete interview.
- Make sure a lawyer is present.
- Proper training in order to avoid false confessions.
In the adult criminal system , we have seen numerous examples of people being convicted on false confessions are later being exonerated by DNA evidence. Juveniles and children are most vulnerable. Protections must be in place to protect the rights of those accused of a crime.