Sitting in an interrogation room being accused of committing criminal activities can make anyone’s nerves stand on end. But this is more so true for juveniles, or persons under the age of 18, because they may not have enough life experiences under their belt to know what they should do when faced with a serious situation such as this.
This is a point that has been made time and again by researchers across the nation who have looked at how a teenager’s mind works and how it can work against them when facing criminal charges. Research that was published in Law and Human Behavior back in June confirms this assertion, further highlighting the fact that a juvenile’s vulnerability should “merit special protections” within the criminal justice system.
The research uncovered some pretty alarming findings. Of the 57 videotaped interrogations of teenagers that researchers looked at, 31 percent of teenagers made incriminating statements while 37 percent made full confessions. At no point in any of the tapes did any of the teens request legal counsel nor did any of them choose to remain silent. This led researchers to believe that the teens may not have been aware of their constitutional rights or how to exercise them.
Even if parents do not have an extensive legal background, they can still protect their child’s rights by telling their child that they should request to have their parents present with them when facing criminal charges. A parent can then make the decision about whether a lawyer is needed or not, further protecting the child’s rights.
Source: The New York Times, “In Interrogations, Teenagers Are Too Young to Know Better,” Jan Hoffman, Oct. 13, 2014