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Can Police Question a Child Without a Parent Present?

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

Children are precious. There's no doubt about that. However, even the most precious children are capable of committing the most heinous crimes. And while parents may be willing to do nearly anything to protect their children, police do not necessarily have to allow parents to be present during an interrogation. The best thing a parent can do for a child facing a police investigation or criminal charges is hire a qualified juvenile justice attorney.

In fact, when conducting certain investigations, such as those involving abuse, or neglect, by a parent, officers may need to question a child privately to avoid parental coercion. While parents can tell their child to refuse to speak with police investigating a crime, refusing investigators from Child Protective Services might result in some serious consequences.

Constitutional Rights of Juveniles

Just because a kid is a kid, it doesn't mean that the rights guaranteed by the constitution are void. Children have the same protections as adults, and may even have more protection since their age makes them more vulnerable. For example, courts have ruled that children are entitled to being Mirandized, and may even be entitled to an earlier and more detailed Miranda warning than adults.

As a general matter, apart from simply identifying themselves, children do not have to talk to police at all. The right to remain silent can be exercised by children, and children also have the right to have an attorney present during questioning.

Parental Permission

Parents can often get upset when they learn that their child was questioned by law enforcement without their express permission. Juvenile justice varies from state to state, but most jurisdictions require parents be notified any time police take a child into custody, and many others will ask for parental consent before questioning a minor, even though doing so is not constitutionally required.

Typically, law enforcement officers will attempt to contact parents for the sake of health and safety, as there may be important information for officers to know about, such as a severe peanut allergy. Also, parents can unwittingly provide helpful information to officers.

Conversely, more mature children, such as teenagers, might be more willing to talk to officers if parents are not notified. But teens beware: Officers can lie about parents not being notified. Furthermore, teens should know that giving up your right to remain silent can be a dangerously stupid move without first speaking with your own attorney.

Unlike an attorney, a parent cannot represent their child in the criminal justice system.

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