Emory Scholars Review Search & Seizure Cases of Juveniles in US Courts
Juvenile law scholars at Emory University released their findings based upon its latest July, 2009 compilation/abstract of juvenile law decisions from every State on the questions of search, seizure and evidentiary 4th Amendment exclusion cases. The study looked at recent decisions involving students in the school and statements or admissions/confessions by these same students/juveniles. These were all kids who’d been questioned while in school regarding suspected delinquent activity whether in school or out.
No surprise to defense counsel, child advocates and youth focused professionals, the Emory study once again confirms what we attorneys have long known. When kids are questioned about suspected misconduct while at school, by adults in authority, most students are afforded much less protection under the law than teens who are accused and questioned by authorities while not in school. This conclusion may seem the opposite of what most parents would hope and expect should their child be questioned when accussed of misbehaviour while in school. But the firmly established law in this area runs just the opposite to a parent’s expectation.
Statements made by kids in school to teachers and staff are almost never afforded the advice of rights warning required by the US Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Miranda. The school house is far from the jail house and teachers are not cops, or so the holdings across the US hold. It all comes down to a question of custody and was the juvenile questioned at a time and in a manner that restricted the youth’s freedom in any meaningful way. Could the kid have simply claimed up and refused to discuss the school’s suspicions?
In those relatively few cases which proceed through the system all the way to trial, defense counsel will challenge the admissibility of a kid’s in school confession if it sounds like the accused kid was made to give a statement admitting fault when questioned at school if done in a way that was custodial and not freely made at the time . Courts and the laws the judge tries to follow, simply do not lend themselves to the notion a teenage high school student in our communities would ever “in custody” and held against their will, unable to leave, while in the kid’s school.
But that it were so!