Describe the controversy surrounding the interrogation and detention of juveniles


The video clip describes basic concerns in regard to police interviews and interrogations. Describe the controversy surrounding the interrogation and detention of juveniles. Should adult interrogation techniques be used on juveniles? Why or why not? What steps can police departments take to counteract concerns that juveniles’ rights are not protected at these stages?

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In People v. Lara a key element involving interviews and interrogations was expressed,”totality of circumstances” which involves decisions being made as a result of all the compiled information of a case. Some have argued that a juvenile’s ability to understand his/her rights as read during an interview and/or interrogation is limited to the comparison of an adult. In Feld (2006),  a study on a juvenile’s legal competencies, stated that “many do not understand the language of a Miranda warning well enough to make a valid waiver, and because many do not understand the warning they cannot exercise their rights effectively.” This often leads to self incrimination and false confessions by the juvenile.

The law does not mandate that a parent or guardian be present for an interview and/or interrogation of a juvenile. However if a parent is present, he/she is able to request that an attorney be present and the child not to answer the questioning. A juvenile is also able to refuse the questioning without a parent, attorney, or “friendly adult present. A major issue involved in the interview and/or interrogation of juvenile’s is their right being protected. Some argue that the juvenile’s are coerced into falsely admitting guilt. Though it is not known for sure what tactics are used in the questioning process, some suggest that the same process used to interview and interrogate adults. is used on juvenile’s. Some of these tactics involve; physical and mental abuse, cruel and harsh treatment, verbal and physical threats to obtain confessions, and lies that instill further fear in the juveniles.

While juvenile delinquency is of much concern, lifelong effects that may result in a juvenile’s rights not being protected should also be of great concern. Steps that can be taken to counteract concerns of the interview process may include;(1) having a parent or friendly adult present during the questioning.that has the ability to thoroughly explain to the juvenile the legal jargon, (2) employ, educate, and train a special team of law enforcement on interview practices for juveniles, (3) mandate that the interview and/or interrogation be video recorded from beginning to end. The negative aspects of the interview and interrogation process may lead to continued and more aggressive unwanted behaviors. This delinquency could spill over into adult criminal behavior and become a part of what now is termed, “The Pipeline to Prison.”

Feld, B.C. (2006). Police Interrogation of Juveniles: An Empirical Study of Policy and Practice. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology. 97(1), 219-36. Retrieved from

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One major controversy surrounding the interrogation and detention of a juvenile is that their parents are not required to be there for the interview. However, the officer conducting the interrogation should make every effort possible to notify the parent prior to the interview. I do not believe all interrogation techniques should be used on juveniles that are used on adults. Some of these techniques could lead a child into confessing to a crime they may have not committed due to being scared and not knowing what their rights are. Juveniles are in many ways very different from adult suspects, when a juvenile is arrested or brought in for questioning juvenile’s are required to be kept separate from adults at all times. Only juveniles alleged to have committed a criminal act may be held in a secure area. Secure areas within the police department include cells and lockable rooms (regardless if they are locked). Juveniles must be monitored at all times while being detained and may be held in a secure area for a maximum of six hours. Juvenile holding logs are located in a separate juvenile detention logbook. The holding log must be completed for each detained juvenile. Original log forms will remain in the logbook. When the juvenile is released, a copy of the log is sent to records and filed with the case report. Whenever any person under the age of 17 is held in a secure area for any length of time, it must be logged in the juvenile detention logbook. One very important step police can take when interviewing a juvenile is to make every effort to have the parents present. This will ensure that anything the juvenile says or confesses to will hold up in court. It will also reduce the likely hood of officer’s word against the juvenile’s word. Obviously all interviews with juveniles should be recorded to insure accuracy and to avoid he said she said.

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