What Are My Child’s Rights If They Are Questioned By The Police?
The juvenile justice system in Texas is designed to provide somewhat more simplified procedures for handling delinquency cases than the regular criminal courts. At the same time, juveniles have the same constitutional rights as adults. This includes the right against self-incrimination.
This right is especially important given that it is far too easy for police officers to “cross the line” and intimidate a questionable confession out of a scared teenager. For this reason, Texas law does include a specific set of procedures designed to ensure that any statement a juvenile does elect to make to the state is truly voluntary.
Texas Court Tosses Juvenile’s Statement in Murder Case Due to Magistrate’s Failure to Follow Procedures
A recent decision from the Texas Thirteenth District Court of Appeals, State v. Torres, highlights how seriously the courts take these procedures. This particular case involves a juvenile charged with the murder of another teenager. Police arrested the juvenile and advised him of his Miranda rights to remain silent and speak with an attorney. Initially, the juvenile exercised his right and did not make a statement. Several hours later while in police custody, the police gave a second warning. This time, however, the juvenile purportedly signed a waiver and agreed to speak. In a subsequent recorded interview, the juvenile told police the location of the victim’s body.
The trial court later granted the juvenile’s motion to suppress his statements to police, meaning they could not be used at trial. The reason for the suppression was that in juvenile cases, the Texas Family Code authorizes a magistrate to conduct a review of whether or not a juvenile’s statement to the police was given voluntarily. The decision to invoke this procedure is not mandatory–it is at the magistrate’s discretion. But once the magistrate decides to conduct such a review, the statute then requires a “determination of voluntariness shall be reduced to writing and signed and dated by the magistrate.” Absent such a written determination, the juvenile’s statement must be suppressed.
Here, a magistrate administered both of the Miranda warnings described above to the juvenile. The magistrate further indicated his intention to invoke the process for determining whether the juvenile’s statements following the second warning were voluntary. But the magistrate never actually met with the juvenile or reviewed the recorded statement that he ultimately gave to the officers. The magistrate left the police station before that happened.
Under the circumstances, the Thirteenth District said the trial court had no choice but to suppress the juvenile’s statements. Even if there was no evidence that the statements were not voluntary, the statute had to be strictly interpreted. Once the magistrate made the decision to review the defendant’s statements, his failure to follow up rendered those statements inadmissible.
Contact Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Keith B. French Today
The juvenile justice system is designed to promote rehabilitation over punishment. But you cannot rely on prosecutors to appreciate that distinction. If your child has been arrested you need to work with an experienced Pearland juvenile defense lawyer who will zealously represent their interests. Contact the offices of Keith B. French, PLLC, today if you need to speak with an attorney right away.