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Are Police Allowed to Question Children About a Crime?

If a police officer approached your child to ask them a question about a crime, you might be wondering whether or not that method of questioning is actually legal.

The answer is yes—police are allowed to approach children to ask them questions about their potential involvement in a crime or if they have any knowledge of criminal activity. However, children are under no obligation to answer the questions, and also have the right (just like adults) to request the presence of an attorney. Parents and attorneys may also refuse to allow the child to answer any questions. But police are not required to get parental permission before questioning a child.

“Informal” questioning

If the child agrees to talk with the police and is not being held under police custody, anything the child says can be used in court proceedings, even if it ultimately hurts that child. The statements the child makes in such conditions are considered voluntary, because if the child is not being detained then he or she is free to walk away or not answer the question at all.

However, it is important to note that the child’s statements can only be used against him or her in court proceedings if those statements are given freely and voluntarily. If the child is forced into answering questions or coerced into admitting commission of a crime, the statements would not be admissible in court under the Fifth Amendment, which states that people have the right to not bear witness against themselves or incriminate themselves.

If you have any reason to believe your child will be questioned by police, it is important to tell them not to answer any questions at all from an officer unless they are with a parent. For more information about the rights you and your children have during police questioning, contact experienced Berks County, PA criminal defense lawyer David R. Eshelman.


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