Share on Facebook Police are free to approach children question them about whether they were involved in a crime but, just as an adult can never be forced to answer questions from police in an interrogation, the child is not required to answer.
The child can refuse to answer questions and can request that a lawyer or a parent be present. A parent or lawyer also can refuse to allow the child to answer questions. If police, including officers on the street and school police officers, begin questioning a child and the child asks to call a parent or have a parent present, the police should stop and allow the child to do so.
But police are not required to contact parents or obtain parental permission before approaching and questioning a child. Informal Questioning and Voluntary Statements to Police If a child agrees to talk with police and the child has not been arrested and is free to leave, anything the child says to police can be used against him or her in court proceedings because his statements are considered voluntary, not coerced. Note that technically, most proceedings against children are not considered "criminal," because most cases are handled in juvenile courts, which do not make findings of guilt.
Instead, if the court concludes that a child has violated a criminal statute, the court will take corrective measures, such as requiring counseling or making the child a ward of the court.
For purposes of convenience, this article will refer to "court proceedings," which include juvenile and adult courts. If, for example, the child was forced to answer questions or admit against his will to committing a crime, those statements would not be admissible in court. This requirement is based on the provision in the Fifth Amendment to the U.
Constitution that no person can be required or forced to be a witness against himself. This also is known as the right against self-incrimination. Just as with an adult, if the police arrest a child and question him without reading him the Miranda warning, nothing the child says will be admissible in court.
The police can use the information to help with the investigation of the case—for instance, talk to another person whom the child reports was involved—but the confession cannot be used to prosecute the child.
The police can ask any questions they like, but the child is free to remain silent or to answer some questions but not others. When is a Child "In Custody? If police formally arrest the child, place him in handcuffs, lock him in the back of a police car, or place him in a holding cell at a police station, it can easily be said that the child is, in fact, in custody and not free to leave. If the child is arrested, the police should announce that the child is under arrest.
In other less obvious situations, the question is whether a reasonable person in that situation would believe he was free to leave. The Court noted that a minor may be more likely to see a police officer as an authority figure and feel required to stay wherever the police officer has approached her. The parents could file a complaint with the police department or local government against the officers or department involved.