If my 14 year-old son and his2 minor friends were questioned in the back of a police car, is that considered “custodial interrogation”?

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If my 14 year-old son and his2 minor friends were questioned in the back of a police car, is that considered “custodial interrogation”?

My son and his friends were forced to get in the back of the police car before they were questioned and not read their Miranda rights. In the process my son’s friend told the police that my son was the guilty party and then my son confessed to the crime. Can that be used against him?

Asked on November 2, 2010 under Criminal Law, Kentucky

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

There  are several issues here.  First of all, the police can question a minor without their parent(s) present if that minor is not in custody.  This often happens when an officer has a reasonable belief that a minor has violated the law. They can detain the minor to conduct an investigation. During this initial detention, the police are not required to let a minor call their parents.  However, if the minor is in custody, that changes things. In such a case, they have the right to call their parents and have their parents present during questioning.  Basically, anytime that the minor's Miranda rights are implicated they have a right to speak with their parents and have them present.  Regardless of age, if someone is in custody and not given the Miranda warning no statements made by them can be used later against them (however prior to being placed into custody any statements made can be used; or if they were read their rights and made voluntary statements after then those statements may be used).  

Now, as to the issue of "custodial interrogation".  This refers to questioning conducted by police officers and the like while a person is in their custody.  While such interrogations most commonly takes place at the police station, custodial interrogation can occur at any time when a person's freedom is limited while they are being questioned -  such as in the back of a police car (or any place else where a law enforcement official is asking questions of a person who feels restricted or unable to depart). Based on the facts presented, a skilled defense attorney could certainly argue dismissal of the case based on procedural improprities.  At the very lease, an attorney in the area where all of this occurred will have local contacts within the court and can potentially use them to either have the charge(s) reduced or arrange for some type of alternative sentencing (assuming that this a first-offense).

Again, at this point, consult with a criminal lawyer directly as to your son's case.


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