International Association of Chiefs of Police publish guide for the questioning of Juveniles

Written By: Reid
Jan 16, 2016
The IACP has published a document entitled, Reducing Risks: An Executive's Guide to Effective Juvenile Interview and Interrogation. Among their recommendations, the authors point out the importance of making sure that young subjects understand the Miranda advisement, and that interrogators refrain from using deception during the interrogation. We agree. From our book, Criminal Interrogation and Confessions (5th edition) we state the following:

Precautionary considerations
A general distinction can be made between childhood (1-9) and adolescence (10-15). While both groups will be motivated to lie to avoid consequences associated with acts of wrongdoing, psychologically they are operating at quite different levels. It is our general recommendation that a person under the age of 10 should not be subjected to active persuasion techniques during interrogation (themes, alternative questions). At this age the child is susceptible to suggestion and is motivated to please a person in authority. The interaction between the investigator and child should be limited to a question and answer session which is centered on factual information and simple logic. Although children in this age group generally have good memory skills, it is selective and the investigator must be cautious in forming opinions of deception based on inconsistent recall. In this younger age group the primary difficulty with respect to interrogation is the child's undeveloped level of social responsibility and inability to comprehend the concept of future consequences; their lives focus around "here and now" concepts.

On the other hand, most adolescents have developed a sense of social responsibility to the extent that they know if they admit committing a serious crime they will suffer some future consequence. For this reason a confrontational interrogation may be used with this age group involving some active persuasion. The extent of persuasive tactics should not be dictated by the seriousness of the crime, but rather the maturity of the child.

When a child is taken into custody and advised of his or her Miranda rights, the question of whether the child is capable of making a knowing and voluntary waiver of those rights may arise. Certainly a child under the age of 10 is incapable of fully understanding the implications of waiving Miranda rights. Younger adolescents also may fall into this category. When a juvenile younger than 15, who has not had any prior experience with the police, is advised of his Miranda rights, the investigator should carefully discuss and talk about those rights with the subject (not just recite them) to make sure that he understands them. If attempts to explain the rights are unsuccessful, no interrogation should be conducted at that time. The same is true for a person who is mentally or psychologically impaired.

Courts routinely uphold the use of trickery and deceit during interrogations of adult suspects who are not mentally impaired. Within the area of trickery and deceit, clearly the most persuasive of these tactics is introducing fictitious evidence which implicates the suspect in the crime. As we state in Chapter 15, this technique should be avoided when interrogating a youthful suspect with low social maturity or a suspect with diminished mental capacity. These suspects may not have the fortitude or confidence to challenge such evidence and, depending on the nature of the crime, may become confused as to their own possible involvement if the police tell them evidence clearly indicates they committed the crime. Factors such as the adolescent's level of social responsibility and general maturity should be considered before fictitious evidence in introduced.

The ultimate test of the trustworthiness of a confession is its corroboration. The admissions, "I shot and killed Mr. Johnson" or, "I forced Susie Adams to have sex with me" may be elicited from an innocent juvenile (or adult) suspect. These admissions only become useful as evidence if they are corroborated by (1) information about the crime the suspect provides which was purposefully withheld from the suspect, and/or, (2) information not known by the police until after the confession which is subsequently verified.
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