If a minor is arrested, do they have the right to call their parents before making a statement?
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UPDATED: Aug 20, 2012
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Practically speaking, a police officer does not have to let a minor do anything – even make a phone call – when they are arrested. However, any statements made may not be admissible in court if the minor asked to talk to his or her parents first and the police officer did not let them do so.
In a 1967 landmark decision, the Supreme Court determined that juveniles arrested for a crime do have a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. According to this ruling, any statements a minor makes to a police officer must be voluntary before they can be used in court.
Whether or not a statement is voluntary will factor in, but to what degree will depend on the jurisdiction in which the minor lives. Some states have strict rules concerning the circumstances under which a police officer can take admissible statements from a juvenile. In these jurisdictions, if a parent or other interested adult is not present during questioning, any statements taken will not be admissible in court. So in these states, a police officer would not only allow, but would require the presence of your parents before questioning a minor.
Other states use a totality of the circumstances test after statements are taken to determine if the statements are voluntary. The courts there will consider a minor’s age, education, prior contact with the juvenile justice system, and presence of an interested adult, among other factors, to determine whether or not they voluntarily gave their statements.
A police officer in any of these states will not require the presence of parents, since this is only one among many factors the court will look at to see if a minor knew what he or she was doing when talking to the police officer. In this case, the police officer does not necessarily have to let a minor consult with his or her parents before taking their statements, even if state law requires that an officer let the parents know their son or daughter was arrested.