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Can Police Question a Minor About Potential Involvement in a Crime?

There is nothing preventing a police officer from approaching a minor to ask whether he or she was involved in a crime. However, just like an adult is under no obligation to answer police questions, neither is a child. A child may refuse to answer questions and request the presence of a parent or attorney without violating the law in any way. In addition, parents or attorneys may refuse to allow a child to answer questions.

If a police officer starts to question a child and the child asks to call a parent or have a parent present, it is appropriate for the officer to stop and allow the child to do so. However, the officer is under no obligation to contact parents or obtain permission from parents before questioning.

Voluntary statements

If the child does agree to talk with police and has not been arrested, anything the child says in the conversation may still be used against him or her in any ensuing court proceedings, as these are considered voluntary statements. Police would be able to testify at hearings or trials about any admissions or statements made by the child during questioning.

The “voluntary” element is critical here. A child’s statements to law enforcement cannot be used against him or her in court proceedings if the child was forced or coerced. This is in accordance with the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which ensures no individuals can be required by law to act as a witness against themselves. This is known as protection against self-incrimination.”

For the guidance you need when a child has been accused of a crime, meet with experienced Berks County juvenile defense attorney David R. Eshelman.


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