Kids are probably under more surveillance and supervision than most people in our community. (For example, when was the last time you had to ask to use a restroom that didn't need a key or code?) While most parents expect their kids will be supervised while at school, few parents expect that their kids could be interrogated. This blog post will discuss the different rules governing the questioning of minors.
Who can interrogate a minor in California?
Two groups of people are most likely to question minors about alleged illegal activity: School Staff and Police Officers. Because so many school campuses have assigned "School Resource Officers" (i.e. cops permanently assigned to patrol the school), it is likely that both groups will be involved.
Will they notify me? Can I be there?
Critically, this can happen without your knowledge. The police have no legal obligation to notify parents that they intend to question their children, or that they did interrogate their kids. Moreover, kids do not have the right to have parents present during questioning, so often parents find out what happened only after the dust has cleared.
Does a minor have a right to an attorney during interrogation?
A minor may not have the right to have parents present but if they are in custody, the minor has a right to an attorney during any questioning.
Thanks to a recent change in the law, every minor has an absolute right to consult with a lawyer before any custodial police interrogation, absent an imminent threat to life or property. Critically, this right cannot be waived or given up by a minor before consulting with a lawyer.
The critical question will be whether the minor was in custody at the time of the interrogation. A minor does not have to be brought downtown in handcuffs to be "in custody," so the circumstances matter in each case.
If the minor was not in custody, the police and school staff are allowed to question them without restriction.
As you can see, the laws governing juvenile interrogation can be complicated, and every juvenile should have a knowledgeable dedicated lawyer in their corner if they are the subject of an investigation. If your child was interviewed by police in connection to a criminal matter, contact the Law Office of Peter James Chambers today for a free consultation.