you questioning a juvenile in relation to a fire? Is he in custody,necessitating
Miranda warnings, orare you gathering information from a fact witness?
A recent court decision discusses the potential risks presented when interviewing
juveniles. Investigators need to ensure compliance with statutes/standards
applicable in their jurisdiction to ensure juvenile statements are admissible.
Failure to do so risks reversing any delinquency finding or criminal conviction
United States of America v. John Doe (9th Cir. 2000) No. 99-50250, the
Court of Appeals reviewed a trial adjudicating a minor delinquent for
importing a controlled substance into the country. He was confined for
18 months and then placed on probation. The juvenile was entering the
United States in a pickup truck as a passenger. The inspector noticed
unusual features of the gas tank and directed it to a secondary inspection
at 12:35 a.m. A closer examination revealed an altered gas tank. The driver
and juvenile were detained, searched, and seated on benches at the checkpoint
area. They were not questioned.
drug detection dog alerted on the truck. A subsequent inspection found
drugs at 2:30 a.m. Between 2:50 a.m. and 3:00 a.m., the inspectors notified
the security officers. The juvenile and driver were then moved to detention
6:30 a.m., federal special agents met with the juvenile. They obtained
a telephone number for his parents. He gave them the number but advised
them his parents did not speak English so they should speak to his sister.
One agent left to call the sister, while the other agent continued to
interview the juvenile about his personal history without complying with
special agent who spoke to the sister advised her that her brother was
arrested for smuggling drugs. The agent did not inform the sister that
the juvenile would be undergoing interrogation, nor did he inform her
of his Miranda rights. The agent promised to call back.
6:36 a.m., the agent read the juvenile his Miranda rights. The agent read
through the standardized form and asked him if he understood the rights.
The juvenile indicated he did. The agent asked the juvenile to waive his
rights by reading the waiver form and signing it. He read and signed the
form. The juvenile made several statements indicating he knew the truck
contained drugs and that he had been offered money to go to Mexico with
the driver and bring the drugs back in the truck. The interrogation lasted
about 15 to 20 minutes and ended at 7:00 a.m. The United States Attorney's
Office was later notified of the arrest. After fingerprinting and processing,
the juvenile was booked into a juvenile facility. He was not booked into
the primary facility used by federal authorities because the facility
did not accept juveniles.
was not until the next day that the juvenile was brought before a magistrate
judge. The U.S. Marshals Service had in place a policy that juveniles
not booked into a federal facility could be brought to the courthouse
only between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. By that time, the juvenile had already
been booked into the juvenile facility. Despite a request by the special
agent, no exception was made for the juvenile. The magistrate did not
have a hearing with the juvenile until the next day, nearly 32 hours after
juvenile moved to suppress his statements on the basis that they had been
obtained in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 5033, the federal procedures
required on arrest of a juvenile. The district court found the government
violated the statute by failing to tell the parents he was going to be
interviewed and that he had certain rights. Further, the district court
found the juvenile was not taken before the magistrate in a timely manner
as required. Nevertheless, the district court denied the motion to suppress
finding that the violations did not raise to a level of due process or
18 U.S.C. section 5033 states:
Prior To Appearance Before Magistrate. Whenever a juvenile is taken into
custody for an alleged act of juvenile delinquency the arresting officer
shall immediately advise such juvenile of his legal rights, in language
comprehensible to a juvenile, and shall immediately notify the Attorney
General and juvenile's parents, guardian or custodian of such custody.
The arresting officer shall also notify the parents, guardian or custodian
of the rights of the juvenile and of the nature of the alleged offense.
juvenile shall be taken before a magistrate forthwith. In no event shall
the juvenile be detained for longer than a reasonable period of time before
being brought before a magistrate."
juvenile argued the government violated every aspect of the above noted
section. The government failed to immediately notify him of his rights,
failed to immediately notify his parents, failed to inform his parents
that he had Miranda rights, and failed to bring him before a magistrate
court had to determine whether the juvenile was arrested and taken into
custody to determine application of section 5033. The Ninth Circuit Court
of Appeals held once drugs were found and the juvenile was placed into
a locked cell, no reasonable person would have believed he was free to
leave. Therefore, he was placed into custody no later than 3:00 a.m.
juvenile was not read his Miranda rights until 6:36 a.m. Hence, he had
been in custody for 31/2 hours. That delay violated the statute.
government did not attempt to notify the juvenile's parents until 31/2
hours after he was placed into custody. The statute identifies custody
as the triggering event requiring notification, not interrogation. The
government's delay in attempting to contact the parents also violated
court found that the parents were not notified of his Miranda rights.
Lastly, 311/2 hours had elapsed between the time the juvenile was taken
under custody and the time he was brought before a magistrate. The court
found no justification for the delay of bringing the juvenile before a
magistrate. Further, the policy in place by the U.S. Marshal violated
the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act.
trial court had found that although there were violations of the statute,
the minor's confession did not have to be suppressed. The Court of Appeals
disagreed. The Court of Appeals stated, "Juveniles need parental
involvement during interrogation. The requirement that parents be advised
of their arrested child's rights is surely not for the purpose of imparting
general information in the abstract. Congress obviously intended that
parents be informed of their children's rights so that they can assist
their children in a meaningful way. The court held that if the juvenile
or his parents request to communicate and confer with each other prior
to questioning, such a request may not be unreasonably refused."
The juvenile's sister who had been contacted testified that if she had
been advised of her brother's Miranda rights, she would have told him
to remain silent until they knew what was going on and found out all the
legalities of where he stood. That would have included her parents' meeting
with a public defender or other legal representative. Hence, the Court
found that the government interfered with the juvenile's right to remain
silent. He was prejudiced because his statements were the sole source
of proof of his knowledge of the drugs.
FOR INTERVIEWING JUVENILES
you are a federal firefighter, special agent, or federal investigator,
and you are questioning a juvenile in a custodial setting where Miranda
applies, compliance with Title 18 U.S.C. section 5033 is mandatory. Failure
to comply with section 5033 requirements can lead to disastrous results,
as noted above.
your hard investigative work can be wasted if the juvenile delinquency
finding is overturned. Fire department personnel and government agency
investigators employed by local or state agencies must know what the law
in their state is on questioning juveniles.
California, those requirements are discussed in the Welfare and Institution
Code. Section 627.5 of the Welfare and Institution Code codifies the advice
to be given a minor as to constitutional rights. That section follows
standard Miranda warnings. Those warnings are required to be given when
a police officer takes a minor before a probation officer. The police
officer who takes the minor into temporary custody does so if the minor
committed a misdemeanor and is habitually disobedient or truant or has
committed a felony. The police officer that has a minor in custody may
not interrogate him unless warnings are given and waived. Notice to parents
is also critical to ensure the minor's waiver is effective.
you are a federal employee conducting a custodial interrogation of a juvenile,
compliance with Miranda and parental notification issues is critical.
As the court noted above, parents need to be informed and have involvement
in the interrogation of their child. If the parent requests to talk to
the child prior to questioning, such a request should not be unreasonably
THE INVESTIGATION RESULTS
interviewing of juveniles ensures obtained statements are admissible in
a juvenile or adult proceeding. Further, compliance with applicable state
statutes and regulations promotes public confidence in the integrity of
fire officials and law enforcement personnel. At a time when some are
skeptical of the criminal justice system, it is better to err on the side
of caution than to have the results of a diligent investigation lost for
failure to comply with procedural safeguards adopted to protect juveniles.