Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Introduction: Use the Case Roper vs Simmons 2005 Using the OYEZ website This assignment is due by | Max paper


Use the Case Roper vs Simmons 2005

Using the OYEZ website 

This assignment is due by the end of Module 

Assignment availability:

The assignment will be available until the end of module 

This assignment fulfills/supports: 

Module outcomes Two. 

Course Outcomes Two. 

General Education Competency One. 

The assignment:

Conduct research on a case of your choosing regarding juveniles.  You can find cases in your text book and/or PowerPoint presentations.   The case should involve some type of important ruling regarding juveniles. The case can be as a juvenile defendant or victim. Cases not involving a juvenile will receive a zero for the assignment.


Use the website to complete this assignment:

This means the case MUST have been to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The case MUST also have audio arguments to the case. The easiest way to find a case is by submitting case names from our text book and/or PowerPoints. 

You will also need to conduct additional research to obtain the facts of the original case. Usually the details of the original case are very limited in OYEZ because the case before the U.S. Supreme court are issues such as Cruel and Unusual Punishment not whether the defendant committed the crime or not. 

Acceptable length: 

The minimum word count for this assignment is 750 words for sections E and G.  The remaining parts will be copied word for word, so they are not included in the word count. The assignment should be formatted like the example below in the Instructions. 

Grading Criteria:

Be sure to answer the questions in full.  (E) and (G) and (H) should be in essay format.  Remember more is always better than less.  Your assignment will be checked through SafeAssign a plagiarism tool.   Make sure that (E) and (G) and (H) are your own words.  A good rule of thumb is to read the documents and then write what your read in your own words.  Anyone who copies and pastes or merely changes the words around will receive a zero for the assignment. 

You will be able to view your SafeAssign report after you submit the assignment. Make sure to view your originality report! This report will show you how close you are to the original sources. If (E), (F) or (G) have a high percentage of a match, re-do your paper and re-submit.  Make sure to send me an e-mail and let me know that you are re-submitting. 

To submit:

In module 5, you will see the Oyez assignment.  Click on the assignment.  You will see “ASSIGNMENT SUBMISSION”.  Submit your assignment as an attachment.  The assignment MUST be submitted using Microsoft Word.   If I can not open your document, you will receive a zero for the assignment. 

If you do not have Microsoft refer to the syllabus.  FTCC offers Microsoft to students for free. 

This assignment is worth 20% of your total possible grade. 


A: The full court citation – example  Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S.584 (1977) Only the case is italicized. 

B: Petitioner: _________________   Respondent: _______________ 

C: Lower Court________________ 

D: Decided by ________________Court (This is the Supreme Court session indicated by the Chief Justice of the Court at the time of the decision) 

E: What are the details of the original case? For example, if the original case was a murder case, give me the details of the murder.  This should be in your own words. 

F: What were the question(s) asked by the Supreme Court? This would be matters of law.  For example, was the court asking the question of the death penalty. You may cut and copy the question(s) 

G: Conclusion: Indicate the majority decision split if it was not unanimous, and which Justices were in the Majority and which Dissented.  What was the ruling and the opinion. This should be in your own words. Also include the dissenting opinion if there was one. This should be in your own words. 

H: On the left side of the Oyez screen page you will see some audio files.  Click on the one that’s says “Oral Argument”.  Be sure that you have disabled pop-up blockers. Press the play button. Explain what you see and hear.  By listening to the attorneys and the Supreme Court Justices, you will receive special insight about the case. What is special about the top of the window where you see the Justices? Do you feel that the Oyez website will be helpful to you or others in your academic career? 

I: Resources: This includes the OYEZ website and any other websites you used for the original case details.  The resources should be in APA format.  You can go to our class tabs on the left for information about APA. 

As a reminder, if you copy and paste Sections (E) and (G) and( H), you will receive a zero for the grade. You can read additional information about the FTCC policy on plagiarism in our Blackboard classroom tab “FTCC Policies”.

This article, tailored for a judicial audience, is taken from one pub-
lished in the March 2014 issue of The Champion magazine, a publica-
tion of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

1. Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005).
2. Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010).
3. Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012).
4. J.D.B. v. North Carolina, 131 S. Ct. 2394 (2011).
5. Id. at 2399–40, 2408.
6. Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652 (2004). The majority in

J.D.B. explained that its decision was not constrained by the
Alvarado decision, in that Alvarado simply held that failing to con-
sider age in the analysis was not “objectively unreasonable under
the deferential standard of review set forth by the Antiterrorism
and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), 110 Stat.

1214.” J.D.B., 131 S. Ct. at 2405. After J.D.B., of course, the fail-
ure of a court to make this consideration would be clear error.

7. J.D.B., 131 S. Ct. at 2398.
8. Id. at 2401 (quoting Corley v. United States, 556 U.S. 303, 321

(2009) (“frighteningly high percentage”) and Miranda v. Arizona,
384 U.S. 436, 467 (1966) (“inherently compelling pressures”)).

9. Id. at 2413 (Alito, J., dissenting).
10. See, e.g., Martin Guggenheim & Randy Hertz, J.D.B. and the

Maturing of Juvenile Confession Suppression Law, 38 WASH. U. J. L.
& POL’Y 109 (2012).

11. Haley v. Ohio, 332 U.S. 596 (1948).
12. Gallegos v. Colorado, 370 U.S. 49 (1962).
13. In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967).
14. Haley, 332 U.S. at 599–600.
15. Gault, 387 U.S. at 52.
16. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 467 (1966).

he landmark trilogy of United States Supreme Court juve-
nile sentencing decisions over the last decade is well
known. Starting with the Roper v. Simmons1 ruling in 2005

that abolished the death penalty for offenders under the age of
18, the Court has developed what might be called a “kids are
different” Eighth Amendment jurisprudence. The last three
years has seen the Court first outlaw life without parole sen-
tences for juvenile non-homicide offenders2 and then prohibit
the mandatory imposition of this sentence on any offender
under the age of 18.3

During this same time period, and utilizing a similar ratio-
nale, the high Court applied this “kids are different” approach
to its Fifth Amendment jurisprudence in the constitutional
consideration of custodial interrogations. In J.D.B. v. North
Carolina,4 the U.S. Supreme Court held that law enforcement
must consider a suspect’s age when weighing whether he is in
custody and entitled to Miranda warnings.5 The decision
marked a reversal of sorts, as only seven years earlier the Court
had rejected the proposition that clearly established U.S.
Supreme Court law required a consideration of age in the
Miranda custody calculus.6 In J.D.B., however, the Court saw
no need to “blind [itself] to the commonsense reality” that
children “will often feel bound to submit to police question-
ing.”7 It so held, in part, based on a concern about the “fright-
eningly high percentage of people” who confess to crimes that
“they never committed” as a result of the “inherently com-
pelling pressures” of custodial interrogation—a problem “all
the more troubling” and “acute,” the Court warned, when the
subject is a juvenile.8 Even the four dissenting justices did “not
dispute that many suspects who are under 18 will be more sus-
ceptible to police pressure than the average adult.”9

Scholars have remarked that the J.D.B. decision represents a
reinvigoration of the high Court’s jurisprudence of half a cen-

tury ago that required special protections for youth in the
interrogation room.10 Indeed, long-ago U.S. Supreme Court
decisions like Haley v. Ohio,11 Gallegos v. Colorado,12 and In re
Gault13 explicitly recognized the differences between youth
and adults in this context. While these cases are from another
era, J.D.B. has given renewed meaning to several oft-repeated
quotations from them, including: “[W]e cannot believe that a
lad of tender years is a match for the police [during custodial
interrogations],”14 and “[A]uthoritative opinion has cast for-
midable doubt upon the reliability and trustworthiness of ‘con-
fessions’ by children.”15

In light of J.D.B. and the revitalization of a “kids are differ-
ent” approach to custodial interrogations, this article high-
lights and examines issues that judges should carefully scruti-
nize when faced with a juvenile confession given as a result of
police questioning. These considerations include Miranda-
related issues, the confession’s voluntariness under a due-
process analysis, and the heightened risk of unreliable or false
confessions from youth.


Before considering the particular issues faced by judges in
cases in which juveniles are interrogated, a brief synopsis of
some of the common, modern-day tactics used during custo-
dial interrogations is appropriate. Almost five decades ago, in
Miranda v. Arizona itself, the U.S. Supreme Court explained
that police interrogations entail “inherently compelling pres-
sures which work to undermine the individual’s will to resist
and to compel him to speak where he would not otherwise do
so freely.”16 To elucidate the “heavy toll” of custodial interro-
gation, the Court cited several police interrogation training
manuals, including Fred E. Inbau and John E. Reid’s Criminal

Scrutinizing Confessions in a New
Era of Juvenile Jurisprudence

Joshua A. Tepfer, Laura H. Nirider, & Steven A. Drizin

4 Court Review – Volume 50

17. Id. at 440, 448–49, fn. 1, 9–10.


(5th ed. 2013).
20. See Richard J. Ofshe & Richard A. Leo, The Decision to Confess

Falsely: Rational Choice and Irrational Action, 74 DENV. U. L. REV.
979, 990 (1997).

21. Id. at 999.
22. Id. at 1108.
23. Corley v. United States, 129 S. Ct. 1558, 1570 (2009).
24. Richard A. Leo & Steven A. Drizin, The Three Errors: Pathways to

False Confession and Wrongful Conviction, in POLICE INTERROGA-
POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS 9 (G. Daniel Lassiter & Christian Meiss-
ner eds., 2010).

25. 17–19.
26. Id. at 19–21.
27. 60 Minutes: Chicago: The False Confession Capital (CBS television

broadcast Dec. 9, 2012), available at

28. Critics Corner, JOHN E. REID & ASSOCIATES, INC.,
29. See generally N. Dickon Reppucci, Jessica Meyer, & Jessica Kostel-

nik, Custodial Interrogation of Juveniles: Results of a National Sur-
(G. Daniel Lassiter & Christian A. Meissner eds. 2010).

30. See Northwestern Law, Bluhm Legal Clinic, Wrongful Convictions
of Youth, Spotlight (Sept. 11, 2013),
index.html (highlighting the Tennessee cases of People v. Brendan
Barnes, People v. Carlos Campbell, and In re C.R. where these tac-
tics were employed).

31. Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 569–70 (2005); Graham v.
Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 68–70 (2010).

32. Graham, 560 U.S. at 77–79.
33. Id.
34. J.D.B. v. North Carolina, 131 S. Ct. 2394 (2011) (citing Brief for

Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth et al. as Amici Curiae
Supporting Petitioner-Appellant 21–22 (collecting empirical stud-
ies that “illustrate the heightened risk of false confessions from

Interrogation and Confessions.17 Now in its fifth edition, Crimi-
nal Interrogation and Confessions promotes the Reid Tech-
nique—which to this day markets itself as “the most widely
used approach to question subjects in the world.”18

The Reid Technique teaches a nine-step interrogation
method that is used to extract confessions—a process that it
cautions should only be used when the police are confident the
suspect is responsible for the crime being investigated.19 At the
outset, interrogators are taught to isolate the suspect from fam-
ily or support. The interview then begins with a rapport-build-
ing period, during which investigators will often allow the sus-
pect to provide a narrative of his activities on the day of the
crime. After a short break, the investigator is trained to re-enter
the interrogation room and directly accuse the suspect of the
crime. During this period, the officer is taught to assert unwa-
vering confidence in the suspect’s guilt and discount any
claims of innocence asserted.20 The goal of this portion of the
interrogation is to make the suspect feel hopelessly trapped.
When this is accomplished, confession is offered as a “carrot”
to the suspect—in other words, as a way out of the suspect’s
predicament. Through a process scholars call minimization,
interrogators indicate that the benefits of confessing outweigh
the costs of maintaining innocence.21 They may ask a murder
suspect, for example, whether the murder was the unplanned
result of a moment of anger or an “accident”—which are, they
intimate, different from a premeditated murder (although it’s
never said how the two differ). Ultimately, if an interrogator
successfully obtains an admission of responsibility from the
suspect, he is taught to elicit a narrative and detailed version of
the criminal act.22

While no doubt effective in eliciting true confessions, the
U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that these interrogation
tactics can be so psychologically powerful as to elicit false con-
fessions at a “frighteningly” high rate.23 The false confession
first stems from law enforcement’s mischaracterization of an
innocent person as guilty and its decision to use these power-

ful tactics on that factually inno-
cent person.24 The “inherently
compelling pressures” described
above can then convince even an
innocent person to admit respon-
sibility.25 Ultimately, the resulting
false confession can often sound
convincing and detailed, particu-
larly if crime scene facts are made
known to the suspect through
media reports, local gossip, or,
most often, the inadvertent, sug-
gestive questioning of the inter-
rogator.26 From national reports like CBS’s 60 Minutes27 to
countless local newspaper articles, stories of false confes-
sions—and resulting wrongful convictions—have become
ubiquitous in the news cycle.

Interrogators employ these and [other] psychologically
coercive tactics on even the youngest of suspects. While offi-
cers may generally recognize that juveniles are more vulnera-
ble or suggestible,28 in practice, many officers simply do not
alter their methods when interrogating a young suspect.29

Concrete examples abound. In the last few months alone, Ten-
nessee law enforcement officers were caught on tape threaten-
ing several teenage suspects with the death penalty—or a life-
time of prison rape—during interrogations.30 The appropriate-
ness of these tactics is highly debatable for any suspect, but it
is particularly difficult to stomach their use when the person
being questioned is only a teenager.

Due to juveniles’ “vulnerab[ility] or susceptib[ility] to . . .
outside pressures,”31 their “difficulty in weighing long-term
consequences,”32 and their “limited understandings of the
criminal justice system and the roles of the institutional actors
within it,”33 the J.D.B. court acknowledged what the research
supports: children and teenagers are particularly vulnerable
during custodial interrogations.34 And this country’s high

tactics can be so

powerful as
to elicit false

at a

high rate.”

Court Review – Volume 50 5

35. Salduz v. Turkey, App. No. 36391/02,2 Eur. Ct. H.R., 2008, 32–36,
60 (2008) (discussing the recommendations of the Committee of
Ministers to Member States of the Council of Europe and the Con-
vention on the Rights of the Child, which require immediate
counsel for all minors taken into custody and before interroga-
tion). The European Court of Human Rights is an international
court that hears cases alleging violations of the civil and political
rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights by
states party to the treaty.


37. See e.g., People v. Rivera, 962 N.E.2d 53 (Ill. App. Ct. 2011); Peo-

ple v. Barr, No. 1-05-3505, 1-05-3699 Cons. (Ill. App. Ct. Aug. 28,
2007) (unpublished order).

38. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966).
39. Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157 (1986).
40. J.D.B. v. North Carolina, 131 S. Ct. 2394, 2402 (2011).
41. Id. at 2399.
42. Id.
43. Id. at 2400.
44. Id. at 2399.
45. Id. at 2400.
46. Id. at 2408.

Court is not alone in this con-
clusion: international treaties
such as Article 37 of the Con-
vention on the Rights of the
Child—and a “significant
number of [other] relevant
international law materials”—
demand that all minors receive
legal assistance before interro-
gation while in police custody
because of an increased risk of

coerced or false confession.35 Given this backdrop, it is essen-
tial that judges carefully scrutinize all aspects of a juvenile’s
confession. The sections below outline some of the particular
issues for consideration.

When dealing with a case involving a confession from a

juvenile, judges may face a variety of arguments from the
defense as to why the confession should be kept from the jury.
Given the evidentiary power of confession evidence, a judge’s
ruling on these pretrial motions might determine the entire
outcome of the case. Indeed, one leading legal evidence trea-
tise has remarked that “the introduction of a confession makes
the other aspects of a trial in court superfluous.”36 Examples
abound of innocent confessors being convicted even in light of
overwhelming evidence of innocence, such as seminal DNA
from a juvenile sexual assault and murder victim that excludes
the confessor.37

A confession must be suppressed where it is obtained in vio-
lation of Miranda v. Arizona or is otherwise involuntary. For a
statement to be admitted into evidence in compliance with
Miranda, a suspect must knowingly, intelligently, and volun-
tarily waive his rights to remain silent and to counsel when
subjected to a custodial interrogation.38 The voluntariness of a
confession is evaluated using a totality of the circumstances
test that considers both the individual vulnerabilities of the
suspect and law enforcement’s tactics in eliciting the confes-
sion.39 Each of these questions must be analyzed more rigor-
ously when the confessor is a juvenile.


Sometimes, a law enforcement officer will elicit a confession
from a juvenile without ever giving Miranda warnings at all,
reasoning that the warnings were not required because the

child was either not in custody or was not interrogated. The
custody inquiry asks courts to consider whether an objective
person would have felt free to leave under the circumstances.40

This custody question was at the forefront of J.D.B. In that
case, a 13-year-old seventh grader suspected of burglary was in
social studies class when an investigator arrived at the school
and informed administrators—including the assistant princi-
pal and a uniformed school resource officer—that he needed to
question the boy.41 The resource officer then went into the
social studies classroom and removed the student, taking him
into a closed-door room where he was met by the assistant
principal and the investigator.42 After some small talk, the
investigator, with aid from the assistant principal, questioned
the boy, leading him to confess to the burglaries.43 No Miranda
warnings were ever read.44

The admissibility of the schoolhouse confession became the
centerpiece of the litigation: three North Carolina courts
affirmed its admissibility by ruling that J.D.B. was not in cus-
tody at the time of the admissions while refusing to consider
the child’s age as part of the inquiry.45 The high Court, how-
ever, disagreed, reversing and ordering a reconsideration of the
custody determination to account for all relevant circum-
stances, including the suspect’s age.46

The import of a consideration of age in this custody calcu-
lus cannot be understated. The average young person likely
has no idea that he could ever, under any circumstances,
choose to terminate an encounter with a law enforcement offi-
cer. Kids are taught from birth to respect the authority of adults
and are punished when they don’t—even moreso when the
elder is a police officer. Unless he clearly understands his right
to do so, it is difficult to imagine any juvenile would ever com-
prehend that he could choose to simply ignore an officer’s
wishes to speak to him and unilaterally end the encounter.

After J.D.B., judges must rigorously question any admis-
sion obtained by police without Miranda warnings regardless
of where, when, or how it was obtained. Traditional questions
regarding whether the suspect was handcuffed, or whether an
adult concerned with the welfare of the child was present,
remain important but may be secondary to the simple fact that
the suspect is a kid. Any Miranda-less confession at a school
is clearly problematic after J.D.B., as such a child would have
to muster not only the wherewithal to withstand the investi-
gator but also, in all likelihood, the orders of school adminis-
trators or resource officers to cooperate—all in an environ-
ment where students are prohibited from leaving their class-
room unless they have an adult’s permission. Even police

“[A] judge’s ruling
on… pretrial
motions might
determine the
entire outcome
of the case.”

6 Court Review – Volume 50

47. Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 300–02 (1980).
48. People v. White, 828 N.W.2d 329 (Mich. 2013).
49. Id. at 331.
50. Id. at 354 (Kelly, J. dissenting).
51. Id. at 341–52 (Cavanaugh, J. dissenting).
52. Fare v. Michael C., 442 U.S. 707, 724–25 (1979).
53. Thomas Grisso, Juveniles’ Capacities to Waive Miranda Rights: An

Empirical Analysis, 68 CAL. L. REV. 1134 (1980).
54. See, e.g., Naomi Goldstein et al., Juvenile Offenders’ Miranda Rights

Comprehension and Self-Reported Likelihood of Offering False Con-
fessions, 10 ASSESSMENT 359 (2003).

55. Richard Rogers et al., The Comprehensibility and Content of Juvenile

Miranda Warnings, 14 PSYCHOL. PUB. POL’Y & L. 6387 (2008).
56. See Jim Schoettler, Defense Expert: Cristian Fernandez Unable to

Fully Comprehend or Interpret Miranda, FLA. TIMES-UNION, July 1,
2012, available at
29/stor y/defense-expert-cristian-fernandez-unable-fully-

57. T.C. v. Arkansas, 364 S.W.3d 53 (Ark. 2010).
58. Commonwealth v. Truong, 28 Mass.L.Rptr. 223 (Sup. Ct. 2011).

See also David Boeri, Anatomy of a Bad Confession, BOSTON PUBLIC
RADIO WBUR (Dec. 7, 2011), available at
tags/worcester-coerced-confession (showing videos of the interro-

questioning of a young person in the living room of his own
home, with his mother by his side, raises the question of
whether a reasonable child has the practical ability to say to
the officer: “I don’t want to answer your questions and would
like you to leave.”

The question of what constitutes an “interrogation” of a
juvenile suspect also deserves new attention after J.D.B. An
interrogation occurs when police should know that their
words or actions are likely to elicit an incriminating
response.47 Therefore, even if a suspect is in custody, any
Miranda-less confession he makes is admissible if it was not
made in response to an interrogation. Where an officer knows
he is dealing with a juvenile, the question becomes whether
words or actions that would not constitute an interrogation of
an adult suspect might when the person being questioned is a

This very question is at issue in the Michigan case of People
v. White.48 Seventeen-year-old armed-robbery suspect Kadeem
White was taken into custody and given his Miranda warnings.
He asserted his right to remain silent. Shortly thereafter, the
officer said: “Okay. The only thing I can tell you is this, and I’m
not asking you any questions, I’m just telling you. I hope that
the gun is in a place where nobody can get a hold of it and
nobody else can get hurt by it, okay. All right.” Kadeem
responded with a brief admission that the State successfully
sought to introduce into evidence.49

While a five-judge panel of the Michigan Supreme Court
affirmed the admissibility of the statement, it did so over the
vigorous dissent of two justices. Citing J.D.B. and other
authority, Justice Kelly argued that the investigator “should
have recognized that defendant’s age made him especially sus-
ceptible to subtle compulsive efforts and that such conduct
would likely elicit an incriminating response.”50 Justice
Cavanaugh explained that Kadeem’s youth and inexperience
increased the likelihood that he would feel compelled to
respect the officer and perceive the officer’s statements as
requiring a response.51

Other cases are likely to arise where judges will be asked to
consider claims by law enforcement that officers’ words or
actions that led to statements by juveniles were not “interroga-
tions.” Whether the police words or actions took place without
Miranda warnings—or if they occurred after an invocation of
rights by the minor, as in White—J.D.B. suggests that there
may be a distinction regarding what constitutes an “interroga-
tion” when the suspect is a child as opposed to an adult.


The question of whether a
suspect knowingly, intelligently,
and voluntarily waives his
Miranda rights is a separate
inquiry that is governed by a
“totality of the circumstances”
test that has long included con-
sideration of the suspect’s age.52

But after J.D.B.’s express concern
about the unique susceptibility
of youth during custodial interrogation, judges would be well
served to pay careful attention to the methods by which police
obtain waivers from juvenile suspects.

Three decades ago, in a renowned study, psychologist
Thomas Grisso concluded that the majority of juveniles under
15 simply did not understand at least one of their Miranda
rights even when properly read to them.53 Even with the
increased repetition of Miranda warnings on television shows
and in pop culture, more recent studies have replicated these
findings.54 And so-called “juvenile Miranda warnings,” which
law enforcement often claims are simpler, more kid-friendly
warnings that ensure a proper waiver, generally use language
that still requires at least an eighth-grade level of comprehen-
sion, far above the intelligence level of many young confes-

Consider the case of an 11-year-old Florida murder suspect,
who was administered Miranda warnings slowly and carefully
before his questioning and admission. Three experts, including
one retained by the State, all independently concluded that
despite these precautions, this boy simply could not under-
stand his rights.56 Or consider the case of a 12-year-old honor
roll student in Arkansas, who initially signed a Miranda waiver
and made a confession even though he later made clear that he
had no idea what the word “waiver” meant. When the law
enforcement officer misinformed the boy of the word’s mean-
ing, his confession was suppressed and the murder charges
eventually dropped.57 Even older juveniles, such as almost-17-
year-old Nga Truong, have given confessions that were later
suppressed despite properly read Miranda warnings when offi-
cers downplayed the rights’ significance.58

The lessons of these cases and the Grisso study is that for
certain juveniles, judges should consider starting with a pre-

“[T]here may be
a distinction

regarding what
constitutes an

when the
suspect is a child

as opposed to
an adult.”

Court Review – Volume 50 7


60. The recommended language is as follows:
1. You have the right to remain silent. That means you do not

have to say anything.
2. Anything you say can be used against you in court.
3. You have the right to get help from a lawyer right now.
4. If you cannot pay a lawyer, we will get you one here for free.
5. You have the right to stop this interview at any time.
6. Do you want to talk to me?
7. Do you want to have a lawyer with you while you talk to me?

The officer should stop between each of the seven steps to assure
that the child can adequately explain back the admonition in his own
words. Id.
61. Hart v. A.G., 323 F.3d 884 (11th Cir. 2010).
62. Davis v. U.S., 512 U.S. 452 (1994).
63. Berghuis v. Thompkins, 560 U.S. 370 (2010) (applying North Car-

olina v. Butler, 441 U.S. 369 (1979), which is also a case where the
suspect was an adult).

64. Doody v. Ryan, 649 F.3d 986 (9th Cir. 2011).
65. Fare v. Michael C., 442 U.S. 707 (1979)
66. Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 165 (1986)

sumption that the suspect could
not properly waive his rights.
Only with particularized expert
evaluations to the contrary, or
other evidentiary facts that sug-
gest the child was either uniquely
able to understand his warnings
or that law enforcement officers
followed best practices and used
special precautions to guarantee
Miranda understanding, should
this presumption be rebutted.

Law enforcement best prac-
tices for Miranda have been recently modernized in a juvenile
interview and interrogation guide entitled Reducing Risks: An
Executive’s Guide to Effective Juvenile Interview and Interroga-
tion, developed by the International Association of Chiefs of
Police (“IACP”) in conjunction with the Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Adjudication and the authors of this
article.59 The guide advises officers to “read each warning
slowly, stopping to ask the child after each individual warning
to explain it back in his or her own words.” The guide also
offers proposed language for administering the rights,60

including a requirement to inform young suspects of the pos-
sible adult criminal consequences of the crime. Judges should
be concerned when officers stray from these guidelines, espe-
cially for younger juveniles or those without prior law
enforcement experience. However, even for those juveniles
who do have significant previous interactions with police,
judges should carefully consider what that experience
entailed. So, for example, if a juvenile had prior interactions
with police for minor offenses—and these interactions
resulted in a confession followed by a diversion out of the
court system—this experience may have actually taught the
child that a confession would only help secure his release and
would not, in fact, “be used against him,” despite what he may
have been told.

To that end, judges should take to heart a true “totality of
the circumstances” approach when it comes to juvenile
waivers. A body of case law is developing that demonstrates
the importance of considering the entirety of the interroga-
tion, not just the admonitions and the waiver itself, when it
comes to this analysis. In Hart v. A.G.,61 for example, the inter-
rogator “went to great lengths” to explain the Miranda …

False Confessions
Causes, Consequences, and Implications for Reform
Saul M. Kassin

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

ABSTRACT—Despite the commonsense belief that people

do not confess to crimes they did not commit, 20 to 25%

of all DNA exonerations involve innocent prisoners who

confessed. After distinguishing between voluntary, com-

pliant, and internalized false confessions, this article

suggests that a sequence of three processes is responsible

for false confessions and their adverse consequences. First,

police sometimes target innocent people for interrogation

because of erroneous judgments of truth and deception.

Second, innocent people sometimes confess as a function

of certain interrogation tactics, dispositional suspect vul-

nerabilities, and the phenomenology of innocence. Third,

jurors fail to discount even those confessions they see as

coerced. At present, researchers are seeking ways to im-

prove the accuracy of confession evidence and its evalua-

tion in the courtroom.

KEYWORDS—police interrogation; confessions; evidence

In criminal law, confession evidence is highly persuasive—yet

fallible. Despite the pervasive myth that people do not confess to

crimes they did not commit, the pages of American history, be-

ginning with the Salem witch trials of 1692, bear witness to all

the men and women who were wrongfully convicted and impris-

oned, often because of false confessions. Although the prevalence

rate is unknown, recent analyses reveal that 20 to 25% of prisoners

exonerated by DNA had confessed to police, that the percentage is

far higher in capital murder cases (White, 2003), and that these

discovered instances represent the tip of an iceberg (Drizin & Leo,


After reviewing a number of cases throughout history, and

drawing on theories of social influence, Wrightsman and I

proposed a taxonomy that distinguished three types of false

confessions: voluntary, compliant, and internalized. Still used

today, this classification scheme has provided an important

framework and has since been used, critiqued, extended, and

refined in subtle ways (Kassin & Wrightsman, 1985).

Voluntary false confessions are those in which people claim

responsibility for crimes they did not commit without prompting

from police. Often this occurs in high-profile cases. When Black

Dahlia actress Elizabeth Short was murdered in 1947, more than

50 people confessed. In 2006, John Mark Karr confessed to the

unsolved murder of young JonBenet Ramsey. There are several

reasons why innocent people volunteer confessions, such as a

pathological need for attention or self-punishment, feelings of

guilt or delusions, the perception of tangible gain, or the desire

to protect someone else.

In contrast, people are sometimes induced to confess through

the processes of police interrogation. In compliant false con-

fessions, the suspect acquiesces in order to escape from a

stressful situation, avoid punishment, or gain a promised or

implied reward. Like the social influence observed in Milgram’s

classic obedience studies, this confession is an act of public

compliance by a suspect who perceives that the short-term

benefits of confession outweigh the long-term costs. This

phenomenon was dramatically illustrated in the 1989 Central

Park jogger case, in which five New York City teenagers

confessed after lengthy interrogations, each claiming he ex-

pected to go home afterward. All the boys were convicted and

sent to prison, only to be exonerated in 2002 when the real rapist

gave a confession that was confirmed by DNA evidence.

Lastly, internalized false confessions are those in which in-

nocent but vulnerable suspects, exposed to highly suggestive

interrogation tactics, not only confess but come to believe they

committed the crime in question. The case of 14-year-old

Michael Crowe, whose sister was stabbed to death, illustrates

this phenomenon. After lengthy interrogations, during which

Crowe was misled into thinking there was substantial physical

evidence of his guilt, he concluded that he was a killer: ‘‘I’m not

sure how I did it. All I know is I did it’’ (Drizin & Colgan, 2004,

p. 141). Eventually, he was convinced that he had a split per-

sonality—that ‘‘bad Michael’’ acted out of jealous rage while ‘‘good

Michael’’ blocked the incident from consciousness. The charges

against Crowe were later dropped when a drifter from the neigh-

borhood was found with Crowe’s sister’s blood on his clothing.

Address correspondence to Saul Kassin, Department of Psychology,
the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 445 West 59th Street, New
York, NY 10019, USA; e-mail: [email protected]


Volume 17—Number 4 249Copyright r 2008 Association for Psychological Science

Inspired by tales of innocents wrongfully convicted, recent

research has focused on three sets of questions: (a) Why are in-

nocent people often misidentified for interrogation, (b) what factors

put innocent suspects at risk to confess, and (c) how accurate are

police, juries, and others at judging confession evidence?


Typically, the confrontational process of interrogation is pre-

ceded by an information-gathering interview conducted by

police to determine if a suspect is guilty or innocent. In Criminal

Interrogations and Confessions (Inbau, Reid, Buckley, & Jayne,

2001), the most influential manual on interrogation, police are

thus advised on the use of verbal cues, nonverbal cues, and

behavioral attitudes to detect deception—at, they claim,

exceedingly high levels of accuracy.

For a person who is falsely accused, this first impression may

determine whether he or she is interrogated or sent home. Yet in

laboratories all over the world, research has shown that people

are only about 54% accurate in judging truth and deception; that

training produces little, if any, improvement compared to naive

control groups; and that police, customs inspectors, and other

so-called experts perform only slightly better, if at all (Bond &

DePaulo, 2006).

In a study that examined performance in a criminal context, some

lay participants but not others were randomly assigned to training in

a popular law enforcement method of lie detection (Kassin & Fong,

1999). These students then watched videotaped interviews of sus-

pects, some guilty and others innocent, denying their involvement

in various mock crimes. As in past studies, observers could not

differentiate between guilty and innocent suspects. Importantly,

those who underwent training were less accurate, more confident,

and more biased toward seeing deception than were those who had

not received training. In a follow-up study with these same tapes,

experienced detectives were tested—and they exhibited the same

tendencies, making prejudgments of guilt, with confidence, that

were frequently in error (Meissner & Kassin, 2002).

At present, psychological scientists are seeking ways to improve

human lie-detection performance. Some studies have shown that

interviewers can boost their accuracy by withholding crime details

while questioning suspects, trapping those who are guilty, but not

those who are innocent, in inconsistencies when these facts are

disclosed (Hartwig, Granhag, Strömwall, & Vrij, 2005). Other

studies have suggested that because lying is more effortful than

telling the truth, interviewers who tax a suspect’s cognitive load (e.g.,

by distraction or by having interviewees tell their stories in reverse

order) can make more accurate true/false judgments by attending to

effort cues such as hesitations (Vrij, Fisher, Mann, & Leal, 2006).


Observational studies and surveys have shown that the modern

American police interrogation—in which interrogators are

legally prohibited from drawing confessions through violence,

physical discomfort, threats, or promises—is a psychologically

oriented process (Kassin et al., 2007; Leo, 1996; see Table 1). In

their training manual, Inbau et al. (2001) recommend a multistep

approach that is essentially reducible to an interplay of three

processes: isolation, which increases anxiety and the suspect’s

desire to escape; confrontation, in which the interrogator

accuses the suspect of the crime, sometimes citing real or

fictitious evidence to bolster the claim; and minimization, in

which a sympathetic interrogator morally justifies the crime,

leading the suspect to expect leniency upon confession.

Situational Risk Factors

Anecdotal evidence from DNA exonerations suggests that certain

interrogation tactics exert too much influence. One potentially

problematic tactic is the presentation of false evidence. American

police are permitted to bolster their accusations by telling

suspects that there is incontrovertible evidence of their guilt (e.g.,

a hair sample, eyewitness identification, or failed lie-detector

test)—even if no such evidence exists. Can such trickery trap

innocent people into confession?

Over the years, basic research has shown that misinformation

can alter people’s perceptions, beliefs, memories, and behaviors.

With regard to confession, this hypothesis was tested in a lab-

oratory experiment (Kassin & Kiechel, 1996). College students

typed on a keyboard in what they were led to believe was a re-

action-time study. At one point, subjects were accused of

causing the computer to crash by pressing a key they had been

instructed to avoid. They were asked to sign a confession. All

subjects were truly innocent and all initially denied the charge.

In some sessions but not others, a confederate said she witnessed

the subject hit the forbidden key. This false evidence nearly

doubled the number of students who signed a written confession,

from 48% to 94%. As measured moments later, this manipula-

tion also increased the number of subjects who actually believed


Ten Most Frequent Interrogation Practices, as Self-Reported by

631 North American Detectives (Kassin et al., 2007)

Tactic Estimated Frequency

Isolating the suspect from family and friends 4.49

Conducting interrogation in a small private room 4.23

Identifying contradictions in the suspect’s story 4.23

Establishing rapport/gaining the suspect’s trust 4.08

Confronting the suspect with evidence of guilt 3.90

Appealing to the suspect’s self-interest 3.46

Offering sympathy, moral justifications, & excuses 3.38

Interrupting the suspect’s denials and objections 3.22

Pretending to have independent evidence of guilt 3.11

Minimizing the moral seriousness of the offense 3.02

Note. Ratings were made on a 1-point (never) to 5-point (always) scale.

250 Volume 17—Number 4

False Confessions

they were culpable. Follow-up studies have replicated the effect

even when the negative consequences of confession were raised.

A second problematic tactic is minimization, the process by

which interrogators minimize the crime by offering sympathy

and moral justification. Interrogators thus suggest to suspects

that their actions were spontaneous, accidental, provoked, peer-

pressured, or otherwise justifiable. Past research has shown that

minimization remarks lead observers to infer that leniency will

follow from confession, even without an explicit promise. To

assess the behavioral effects of this tactic, researchers paired

subjects with a confederate for a problem-solving study and

instructed them to work alone on some trials and jointly on others

(Russano, Meissner, Narchet, & Kassin, 2005). In a guilty

condition, the confederate sought help on an individual problem,

inducing the subject to violate the experimental rule; in the

innocent condition, the confederate did not make this request.

The experimenter soon ‘‘discovered’’ a similarity in solutions,

separated the subject and confederate, and accused the subject

of cheating. Blind to guilt or innocence, the experimenter tried to

get the subject to sign an admission by promising leniency,

making minimizing remarks, using both tactics, or using no

tactics. Compared to the no-tactics condition, minimization—as

effectively as an offer of leniency—increased not only true

confessions from the guilty but false confessions from the in-

nocent (see Fig. 1).

Dispositional Vulnerabilities

Some people are dispositionally more malleable than others—

and at greater risk for false confessions. For example, individ-

uals whose personalities make them prone to compliance in

social situations are especially vulnerable because of their

eagerness to please others and avoid confrontation. Individuals

who are prone to suggestibility—whose memories can be altered

by misleading questions and negative feedback—are also

subject to influence. People who are highly anxious, fearful,

depressed, delusional, or otherwise psychologically disordered,

and people who are mentally retarded, are particularly prone to

confess under pressure (for a review, see Gudjonsson, 2003).

Youth is a particularly substantial risk factor. More than 90%

of juveniles whom police seek to question waive their Miranda

rights to silence and a lawyer. In fact, the presence of a parent or

other ‘‘interested adult’’—which many states require, to protect

young suspects—does not help, as adults often urge their youths

to cooperate with police (Oberlander & Goldstein, 2001). The

problem is evident in the disproportionate number of juveniles

in the population of false confessors (Drizin & Leo, 2004). As to

what makes juveniles so vulnerable, developmental research

indicates that adolescents display an ‘‘immaturity of judgment’’

in their decision making—a pattern of behavior that is charac-

terized by impulsivity, a focus on immediate gratification, and a

diminished capacity for perceptions of future risk (Owen-

Kostelnik, Reppucci, & Meyer, 2006). For the myopic adoles-

cent, confession may serve as an expedient way out of a stressful

situation. To make matters worse, most justice-involved youth

have diagnosable psychological disorders, putting them at

‘‘double jeopardy’’ in the interrogation room (Redlich, 2007).

The Phenomenology of Innocence

On Sept. 20, 2006, Jeffrey Deskovic was released from prison in

New York, where he had spent 15 years for a murder he had said he

committed but did not. Why did he confess? ‘‘Believing in the

criminal justice system and being fearful for myself, I told them

what they wanted to hear,’’ Deskovic said. Certain that DNA

testing on the semen would establish his innocence, he added: ‘‘I

thought it was all going to be okay in the end’’ (Santos, 2006, p. A1).

Anecdotal and research evidence has suggested the ironic

hypothesis that innocence itself may put innocents at risk

(Kassin, 2005). People who stand falsely accused believe that

truth and justice will prevail and that their innocence is trans-

parent to others. As a result, they cooperate with police, waive

their rights, and speak freely, often not realizing that they are

under suspicion. In a study that illustrates the point, some

subjects but not others were assigned to commit a mock theft of

$100, after which they were ‘‘arrested’’ and apprised of their

rights by a security guard. As predicted, those who were innocent

were more likely to sign a waiver and talk than were those who

were guilty (81% vs. 36%). Afterward, most explained that they

waived their rights precisely because they were innocent: ‘‘I did

nothing wrong,’’ ‘‘I had nothing to hide’’ (Kassin & Norwick,

2004). In short, Miranda warnings may not protect citizens who

need it most—those accused of crimes they did not commit.



















No tactic

Guilty Participants
Innocent Participants


Fig. 1. Percentage of guilty and innocent subjects who confessed to
cheating after a promise of leniency, minimization remarks, both tactics,
or no tactics (Russano, Meissner, Narchet, & Kassin, 2005).

Volume 17—Number 4 251

Saul M. Kassin


When a suspect retracts his or her confession, pleads not guilty,

and goes to trial, a sequence of two courtroom decisions is set into

motion. First, a judge determines whether the confession was

voluntary and admissible as evidence. Then a jury, hearing the

admissible confession, determines whether the defendant is guilty

beyond a reasonable doubt. But can people distinguish between

true and false confessions, or do most people believe, simply, that

no one would confess to a crime he or she did not commit?

Addressing the first question, researchers videotaped male

prison inmates making true confessions to their crimes and

concocting false confessions to crimes they did not commit.

When laypeople and police investigators later judged these

statements from videotapes or audiotapes, neither group fared

well, exhibiting accuracy rates that ranged from 42% to 64%

(Kassin, Meissner, & Norwick, 2005). Mock-jury studies have

further shown that confession is a highly potent form of evidence

and that people do not fully discount confessions even when

these confessions are coerced. To illustrate, mock jurors were

presented with one of three versions of a murder trial—a

low-pressure confession version, a high-pressure confession

version, and a no-confession control version. Confronted with

the high-pressure confession, subjects judged the statement to

be involuntary and said it did not influence their decisions. Yet

when it came to verdicts, this same confession significantly

boosted the conviction rate—from 19% in the no-confession

control group to 47% in the high-pressure confession condi-

tion—even when subjects were specifically asked to disregard

confessions they thought were coerced (Kassin & Sukel, 1997).

Criminal justice statistics reinforce the point that people

uncritically accept confessions, which invariably unleash a

chain of adverse legal consequences. In one sample, a striking

81% of innocent confessors who pled not guilty and went to trial

were ultimately convicted by juries. Hence, it appears that

confessions are ‘‘inherently prejudicial and highly damaging to a

defendant, even if it is the product of coercive interrogation,

even if it is supported by no other evidence, and even if it is

ultimately proven false beyond any reasonable doubt’’ (Drizin

& Leo, 2004, p. 959).


Recent DNA exonerations reveal three sets of problems with

confession evidence: (a) Police cannot accurately distinguish

between truth tellers and liars; (b) certain psychological inter-

rogation tactics put innocents at risk to confess, especially if they

are young, mentally impaired, or otherwise vulnerable; and (c)

judges and juries intuitively tend to trust confessions, even if

they know that these confessions were coerced.

Having identified these problems, psychological scientists

now seek solutions that inform policies and practices. One goal

is to improve the quality of confession evidence. Hence,

researchers are working on ways to increase the accuracy with

which police interviewers judge suspects, to develop methods of

interrogation that get offenders but not innocents to confess, and

to protect vulnerable suspect populations. A second goal is to

improve the way judges and juries evaluate confessions in court.

Toward this end, there are two possible mechanisms. One

involves a greater use of expert witnesses to educate judges and

juries about the psychology of confessions. The second is to

ensure that judges and juries can observe how the confessions

are produced by requiring that police videotape entire interro-

gations. In coming years, more research is needed to evaluate the

impact of these approaches.

Recommended Reading
Gudjonsson, G.H. (2003). (See References). An encyclopedic review by

a leading clinical researcher in Great Britain.

Kassin, S.M., & Gudjonsson, G.H. (2004). The psychology of confes-

sions: A review of the literature and issues. Psychological Science
in the Public Interest, 5, 33–67. A comprehensive overview of
research and policy issues.

Lassiter, G.D. (Ed.). (2004). Interrogations, confessions, and entrap-
ment. New York: Kluwer Press. An edited volume containing
original chapters by leading researchers.

Leo, R.A. (2008). Police interrogation and American justice. Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press. An in-depth analysis of police

interrogations and the confessions they produce.

Vrij, A. (2008). Detecting lies and deceit: Pitfalls and opportunities.
Chichester, England: Wiley. An overview of the rapidly growing

science of lie detection.


Bond, C.F., & DePaulo, B.M. (2006). Accuracy of deception judgments.

Personality & Social Psychology Review, 10, 214–234.

Drizin, S.A., & Colgan, B.A. (2004). Tales from the juvenile confessions

front. In G.D. Lassiter (Ed.), Interrogations, confessions, and
entrapment (pp. 127–162). New York: Kluwer Academic.

Drizin, S.A., & Leo, R.A. (2004). The problem of false confessions in the

post-DNA world. North Carolina Law Review, 82, 891–1007.

Gudjonsson, G.H. (2003). The science of interrogations and confessions:
A handbook. Chichester, England: Wiley.

Hartwig, M., Granhag, P.A., Strömwall, L., & Vrij, A. (2005). Detecting

deception via strategic closure of evidence. Law and Human
Behavior, 29, 469–484.

Inbau, F.E., Reid, J.E., Buckley, J.P., & Jayne, B.C. (2001). Criminal
interrogation and confessions (4th ed.). Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen.

Kassin, S.M. (2005). On the psychology of confessions: Does innocence
put innocents at risk? American Psychologist, 60, 215–228.

Kassin, S.M., & Fong, C.T. (1999). ‘‘I’m innocent!’’ Effects of training on

judgments of truth and deception in the interrogation room. Law
and Human Behavior, 23, 499–516.

Kassin, S.M., & Kiechel, K.L. (1996). The social psychology of false

confessions: Compliance, internalization, and confabulation.

Psychological Science, 7, 125–128.

Kassin, S.M., Leo, R.A., Meissner, C.A., Richman, K.D., Colwell, L.H.,

Leach, A.-M., & La Fon, D. (2007). Police interviewing and

252 Volume 17—Number 4

False Confessions

interrogation: A self-report survey of police practices and beliefs.

Law and Human Behavior, 31, 381–400.

Kassin, S.M., Meissner, C.A., & Norwick, R.J. (2005). ‘‘I’d know a false

confession if I saw one’’: A comparative study of college students

and police investigators. Law and Human Behavior, 29, 211–227.

Kassin, S.M., & Norwick, R.J. (2004). Why suspects waive their

Miranda rights: The power of innocence. Law and Human
Behavior, 28, 211–221.

Kassin, S.M., & Sukel, H. (1997). Coerced confessions and the jury: An

experimental test of the ‘‘harmless error’’ rule. Law and Human
Behavior, 21, 27–46.

Kassin, S.M., & Wrightsman, L.S. (1985). Confession evidence. In S.

Kassin & L. Wrightsman (Eds.), The psychology of evidence and
trial procedure (pp. 67–94). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Leo, R.A. (1996). Inside the interrogation room. The Journal of Criminal
Law and Criminology, 86, 266–303.

Meissner, C.A., & Kassin, S.M. (2002). ‘‘He’s guilty!’’: Investigator bias

in judgments of truth and deception. Law and Human Behavior, 26,

Oberlander, L.B., & Goldstein, N.E. (2001). A review and update on

the practice of evaluating Miranda comprehension. Behavioral
Sciences and the Law, 19, 453–471.

Owen-Kostelnik, J., Reppucci, N.D., & Meyer, J.R. (2006). Testimony

and interrogation of minors: Assumptions about maturity and

morality. American Psychologist, 61, 286–304.

Redlich, A.D. (2007). Double jeopardy in the interrogation room:

Young age and mental illness. American Psychologist, 62,

Russano, M.B., Meissner, C.A., Narchet, F.M., & Kassin, S.M. (2005).

Investigating true and false confessions within a novel experi-

mental paradigm. Psychological Science, 16, 481–486.

Santos, F. (2006). DNA evidence frees a man imprisoned for half his life.

The New York Times, September 20, 2006, p. A1.

Vrij, A., Fisher, R., Mann, S., & Leal, S. (2006). Detecting deception by

manipulating cognitive load. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 10,

White, W.S. (2003). Confessions in capital cases. University of Illinois
Law Review, 2003, 979–1036.

Volume 17—Number 4 253

Saul M. Kassin

1. Joshua Tepfer, Laura Nirider, and Steven Drizin, Scrutinizing Con-

fessions in a New Era of Juvenile Jurisprudence 50 CT. REV. 4 (2014).
2. Bruce Frumkin, Expert Testimony in Juvenile and Adult Alleged

False Confession Cases 50 CT. REV. 12 (2014).
3. Kirk Heilbrun, Sanjay Shah, Elizabeth Foster, Michael Keesler,

and Stephanie Brooks, Empathy, Acceptance of Responsibility, and
Compelled Testimony in Juvenile Transfer Hearings: Legal Context

and Empirical Evidence 50 CT. REV. 20 (2014).
4. Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005); Graham v. Florida, 129 S.

Ct. 2157 (2010); Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012).
5. J.D.B. v. North Carolina, 131 S. Ct. 2394 (2011).
6. For an excellent synthesis of the research on adolescents’ devel-

opmental capacities as they relate to juvenile justice questions, see
JUSTICE (2008).

y comments use a developmental perspective on ado-
lescents’ capacities as a way to supplement the con-
clusions of three previous articles in this volume

(Tepfer, Nirider and Drizin;1 Frumkin;2 and Heilbrun et al.3)
that discuss policies to protect juveniles in legal contexts in
which they are asked to make self-incriminating statements.

The Tepfer and Frumkin articles provide ample reason for
concern about adolescents’ responses to police interrogation.
They argue adolescents are at greater risk of making false con-
fessions (as they are more susceptible to police interrogation
strategies) and are more likely to waive their rights due to poor
understanding or acquiescence. Tepfer and his coauthors point
out that we have entered an era of juvenile justice reform that
recognizes that “adolescents are different,” a perspective that
has received special emphasis by the U.S. Supreme Court in
several recent cases.4 Age, the Court says, must be taken into
consideration when weighing the validity of a confession.5

Frumkin describes some of the things that mental health
examiners can do to assist courts in weighing youths’ capaci-
ties and vulnerability—especially their suggestibility—in indi-
vidual cases that challenge confessions. Both articles refer
broadly to differences between adolescents and adults. My
comments add some complexities that arise when we go
beyond these differences to address diversity among young
people across the adolescent age span. This leads me to suggest
some refinements in our thinking about the types of protec-
tions needed for juveniles in police interrogations.

In a very different legal context, Heilbrun and his coauthors
focus on practice in many states that allows pretrial transfer
evaluations to include examiners’ discussions with juveniles
about their involvement in their alleged offenses. The pre-
sumed value of talking about the alleged offense is to deter-
mine whether the youth has empathy or remorse, which is rel-
evant for judging whether the young person can be rehabili-
tated or, if not, should be tried and potentially sentenced as an
adult. This may seem like an entirely different context than
police interrogation. Yet when viewed from a developmental
perspective, as I will do later, we encounter some of the same
concerns about youths’ capacities that arise in discussions of

their behaviors in police interrogations. And here too a devel-
opmental perspective leads us to some considerations that
seem not to have been recognized by courts when shaping law
and policy for juvenile transfer proceedings.

Adolescents are different from adults because they are still

undergoing development in several areas that influence com-
prehension and decision making. The evidence comes from
neuroscience regarding adolescent brain development as well
as from behavioral studies of adolescents’ functioning on tasks
that demonstrate comprehension and decision making. The
evidence can be summarized as follows.6

In general, several abilities continue to develop and improve
throughout adolescence that might make a difference in teens’
capacities in legal contexts. These include: (a) basic knowledge
of the world, including the risks associated with various deci-
sions; (b) the ability to handle abstract concepts (like the
meaning of a “right”); (c) the ability to delay impulses by stop-
ping to think about consequences before deciding (for exam-
ple, about whether to admit or deny involvement in an alleged
offense); (d) using judgment that weighs long-term positive or
negative consequences, not just short-term gains; and (e) a
developing sense of independent autonomy and identity asso-
ciated with making decisions that are not merely acquiescent
or oppositional responses to peers or authority figures. Read-
ers of the Tepfer and Frumkin articles will see the relation
between these developing abilities and our concerns about
adolescents’ capacities to make voluntary, knowing, and intel-
ligent decisions about their rights and their responses to police

Recognizing that “adolescents are different from adults” in
these ways is essential when fashioning special protections for
juveniles in police interrogations. But that distinction only
takes us partway to our objective, because it focuses on ado-
lescent–adult differences and does not consider differences
among adolescents.

Variability among adolescents in their capacities can be
framed in two ways. First, younger adolescents are far less

32 Court Review – Volume 50

Protections for Juveniles in Self-
Incriminating Legal Contexts,
Developmentally Considered

Thomas Grisso

GRISSO, JUVENILES’ WAIVER]; Thomas Grisso, Laurence Steinberg,
Jennifer Woolard, Elizabeth Cauffman, Sandra Graham, Fran Lex-
cen, N. Dickon Reppucci, and Robert Schwartz, Juveniles’ Compe-
tence to Stand Trial: A Comparison of Adolescents’ and Adults’
Capacities as Trial Defendants, 27 LAW & HUM. BEHAV. 333 (2003)
[hereinafter Grisso et al., Juveniles’ Competence].

8. For a recent review, see B. J. Casey, Rebecca Stone, and Robert
Hare, The Adolescent Brain, 1124. N.Y. ACAD. SCI. 111 (2008).

9. See GRISSO, JUVENILES’ WAIVER, supra note 7.

11. Fare v. Michael C, 442 U.S. 707 (1979).

capable than older ones. Improvements in ability are continu-
ous across the six years between the 12th birthday and the
18th birthday. The risks of vulnerability due to lesser capaci-
ties are greater in the younger teen years than for the “average”
adolescent and far greater than for older adolescents.7 (We rec-
ognize this when we allow older but not younger adolescents
to obtain a driver’s license.) It is true that various fMRI studies
of adolescent brain development find that changes in areas of
the brain relevant for decision making continue well into the
20s.8 In this sense, even older adolescents have not achieved
the neurodevelopmental status of adults. Yet on tasks involv-
ing Miranda comprehension and abilities related to compe-
tence to stand trial, research typically finds little average dif-
ference in performance between 16–17 year olds and young
adults.9 The same studies find much difference between early
teens and these age groups. Thus, there is great variability in
capacities across the adolescent years because of substantial
differences on average between younger and older adolescents.

Second, variability in the capacities of adolescents that
make them generally less mature than adults is seen not only
between younger and older adolescents, but also within any
specific age. Most forensic mental health professionals who
evaluate juveniles can provide examples of some 14-year-olds
whose understanding of Miranda warnings or ability to make
reasonable decisions under stress surpassed those of some
adults, as well as examples of 18-year-olds who were more vul-
nerable than the average 14-year-old. Courts are right to
require attention to age when weighing young people’s capaci-
ties, because on average these change with each advancing year
until they stabilize in adulthood. Yet a youth’s age itself is an
imperfect factor for making assumptions about an individual,
because any specific age group includes young people with
capacities ranging from far below to far above the average.

In summary, “adolescence” as a period of development from
about ages 12 through 17 is a meaningful class for many pur-
poses when thinking about needed protections in police inter-
rogation. Yet the needs and capacities of most 12-year-olds are
quite different from those of most 17-year-olds, thus making
“juvenile” or “adolescent” a less-than-meaningful class for
some purposes. These simple developmental observations are
at the heart of challenges to our efforts to fashion protective
policies for juvenile interrogations. I will return to those chal-
lenges in a moment.

The Tepfer and Frumkin analyses explore complexities in

identifying youths’ capacities. Those complexities are even
greater, however, if one considers the mental disorders
among young people who are arrested and questioned by law
enforcement officers. A significant body of research10 sup-

ports the conclusion that at least
60% of youth who are arrested
and enter juvenile detention cen-
ters meet standard psychiatric
diagnostic criteria for one or
more mental disorders. About
40% have more than one disor-
der, and about 20% have serious,
persistent, and chronic mental
disorders. Symptoms of disorders
found among delinquent youths
often include clinically signifi-
cant anxiety (sometimes related
to trauma), depression (related
to affective disorders), and
impulsiveness (especially related to ADHD). As a conse-
quence, many young people who are questioned by law
enforcement officers are burdened not only by immature
capacities related to their level of development, but also by
symptoms of mental disorders.

Symptoms of mental disorder have two general effects that
are relevant to consider in the context of young persons’ vul-
nerability during police questioning. First, most of these symp-
toms increase a youth’s susceptibility to interrogation strate-
gies and decrease the ability to use the already-immature
capacities that the youth might have. Second, persistent men-
tal disorder can cause delays in an adolescent’s general devel-
opment, such that the youth lags behind his or her peers both
cognitively and socially. This is another reason that age norms
for adolescent functioning are only a starting point for consid-
ering the capacities of individual young people.


The diversity of abilities among younger and older adoles-
cents—and within any specific age group—is important to
consider when we analyze our laws and policies for protecting
juveniles’ rights in police interrogations. Our mechanisms for
protection are at two levels: (a) guiding and restricting police
interrogations at the time that confessions are obtained, and
(b) judicial adjudication of cases in which claims are made that
waivers and confessions obtained in police interrogation were
invalid. The diversity of abilities among adolescents across or
within various ages is addressed by the modes of protection
provided in the latter context, but not the former.

Regarding the latter, courts’ scrutiny of the validity of con-
fessions or waiver of rights is guided by a “totality of circum-
stances” test.11 This presumes that no specific characteristic of
the child and no specific interrogation behavior of law enforce-
ment officers are determinative of the validity of waiver or the

Court Review – Volume 50 33

are far more
likely] in the
younger teen
years than for
the ‘average’

adolescent and
far greater than

for older

ROGATION (2012).

13. Grisso et al., Juveniles’ Competence, supra note 7.
14. GRISSO, JUVENILES’ WAIVER, supra note 7.

15. Id.
16. For a recent review, see ALAN GOLDSTEIN AND NAOMI GOLDSTEIN,

17. For a recent review, see IVAN KRUH AND THOMAS GRISSO, EVALUA-


voluntariness of a youth’s con-
fession. For example, the
younger the juvenile, the more
carefully the matter of suscepti-
bility to coercion may be scruti-
nized. But the mere fact that
the youth is 13 or 14 is neither
dispositive nor even presump-
tive regarding an answer to the
legal question. Every case must
be weighed according to the
balance of factors in the specific

case. This approach provides for individual consideration of
the wide range of developmental and psychiatric statuses of
adolescents. As Frumkin describes, many of these characteris-
tics can be assessed by mental health professionals who can
provide such information to the court when waivers and con-
fessions are questioned.

But regarding the first type of protective intervention, poli-
cies to guide police questioning, a “totality of circumstances”
approach is of questionable value. There are three reasons.

First, police are provided operating procedures to apply to
adolescents in general. There are exceptions in some jurisdic-
tions; for example, some require parents’ presence when sus-
pects are 14 or younger. But by and large police are not pro-
vided separate procedures for younger and older adolescents.

Second, judicial “totality of circumstances” opinions do not
provide meaningful guidance for police officers regarding how
to manage interrogations with adolescents of different ages. We
sometimes presume that juvenile court decisions about the
validity of youths’ confessions or waiver of rights will some-
how “set precedent” that will be translated into better police
practices. Yet there is relatively little for police to learn from
judicial decisions in this arena. When each case is decided on
the “totality of circumstances,” no single factor is likely to be
highlighted in a manner that “sends a message” to police about
how to adjust their practices. For example, a 13-year-old’s vul-
nerability may weigh heavily in the court’s decision in one case
and be offset by other factors in another case. The multiplicity
of factors weighed in those cases creates no clear guidance
about how police officers are to translate any of the factors into
judgments about their handling of juvenile cases.

Third, even if it were clear that certain developmental or
pathological characteristics of adolescents create greater risk of
invalid waivers, this offers law enforcement officers little assis-
tance. The circumstances of police investigations do not allow
for individual assessments, and law enforcement officers
should not be expected to “assess” youths’ developmental
capacities and mental disorders before questioning them. Such
a requirement would hold law enforcement officers account-
able for employing discretion that they cannot be expected to

exercise meaningfully.
Tepfer and Frumkin offer one approach to this problem.

They refer to the value of judicial use of the best-practices
guidelines for juvenile interrogations developed by the Inter-
national Association of Chiefs of Police.12 If used consistently
by judges, the guidelines might clarify some factors for police.
But will guidelines such as those offered by the IACP be ade-
quate to deal with the diversity of capacities across the adoles-
cent age spectrum? For example, will “limiting juvenile ques-
tioning sessions to an hour” have the same ameliorative effect
for the average 12-year-old as for a 16-year-old? Will non-lead-
ing and dispassionate interviewing do anything at all to
address younger adolescents’ vulnerability to making state-
ments based primarily on their desire to escape the immediate
situation rather than considering longer-range consequences
of their choices?13 Will the simplified Miranda warning, “You
have the right to get help from a lawyer right now,” and the
youth’s reply, “It means I can get a lawyer right now if I want,”
have any protective value for the majority of 13-year-olds, if
they do not know the types of help a lawyer might provide?14

For purposes of fashioning protective police practices in the
interrogation of adolescents, developmental considerations do
not support the notion that “one size fits all.” There is suffi-
cient research on the behavioral, cognitive, and functional dif-
ferences between youth 14 and under and older juveniles to
require protections for younger adolescents that go beyond
those that law and policy for police interrogations might fash-
ion for juveniles as a class. When I performed the first studies
of juveniles’ capacities to understand and waive Miranda
rights, I concluded that juveniles 14 and younger were espe-
cially poorly equipped to understand Miranda rights and to
make decisions to waive them.15 Since that time (30 years ago),
much more research has examined youths’ capacities related to
Miranda waivers and confessions16 and to abilities relevant for
competence to stand trial.17 Most of those studies have found
results consistent with my suggestion that while juveniles as a
class need special protections during interrogation, the
youngest adolescents need even more. The same project pro-
vided evidence that merely requiring the presence of parents
offered little meaningful protection. My suggestion at the
time—I was young and exuberant—was a legal requirement
that interrogation of adolescents 14 and younger should not
occur without the presence of legal counsel.

My point is not to argue for this specific protection, but to
supplement the two preceding articles by arguing the need for
a tiered perspective when fashioning policies for police prac-
tices in juvenile interrogations. Protections based on an “aver-
age” for adolescents may be insufficient for the youngest ado-
lescents, most of whom are developmentally immature even in
relation to the average for young people seen in juvenile courts.

34 Court Review – Volume 50

“[W]hile juveniles
as a class

need special
protections during

the youngest

adolescents need
even more.”

18. Donald Lynam et al., Longitudinal Evidence That Psychopathy
Scores in Early Adolescence Predict Adult Psychopathy, 116 J.
ABNORM. PSYCHOL. 155 (2007).

19. My description is based primarily on experience, not on research.
Transfer evaluations by mental health professionals are one of the
least-researched types of forensic mental health assessment. The

little that has been published in this area has been reviewed in
Thomas Grisso, Clinicians’ Transfer Evaluations: How Well Can
They Assist Judicial Discretion? 71 LA. L. REV. 157–89 (2010).

20. In many states, juveniles have the right to have their attorneys
present during forensic evaluations. In my experience, attorneys
rarely choose to be present.


Heilbrun and his coauthors reviewed laws and policies
allowing or prohibiting inquiry about the alleged offense when
mental health professionals examine a juvenile for a transfer
hearing. The authors explain that courts believe discussion of
the offense is important to learn whether the juvenile in ques-
tion experiences remorse and acceptance of responsibility, sug-
gesting better prospects for treatment in the juvenile system.
They review research on the relation of empathy and future
offending, finding some limited evidence for it. This analysis is
certainly helpful, but a developmental perspective offers addi-
tional questions.

First, as the authors of the Heilbrun article explain, affective
and cognitive empathy appear to have some relation to offend-
ing among juveniles, and the relation is a bit stronger in juve-
niles than in adults. They also explain that empathy involves
the ability to understand (cognitive) or feel (affective) the con-
dition of the other person. Many of the studies they cite use
methods that assess whether the person can recognize others’
emotions. Yet if we are interested in whether empathy serves to
reduce offending, we must know whether a person can recog-
nize others’ emotions before those emotions are displayed—
indeed, often at times before an offense when the potential vic-
tim is not yet present. “How would a hypothetical person feel
if, hypothetically, I were to do something to them?” This
“empathy in advance” requires more than recognizing and feel-
ing another person’s emotions. It requires some level of ability
to think abstractly about people and feelings that do not yet
exist. Developmental psychology tells us that reasoning about
abstractions is one of the capacities that is developing early in
adolescence. Typically it has formed by ages 12 or 13, but for
many youth with developmental delays (due to intellectual
disability, mental disorders, or economic disadvantage), it may
still be developing well into mid-adolescence.

If the capacity for this type of “empathy in advance” is
changing (increasing) across some part of adolescence, then
what we learn about an adolescent’s empathy at a given point
in time may simply be the youth’s current level of development
regarding empathic responsiveness, not an indication of the
youth’s capacity for it in the future. We have some evidence of
the implications of this. The Heilbrun article points out that
lack of empathy has been related to measures of “callous-
unemotional trait,” which is one component of psychopathy.
Yet a well-constructed longitudinal research study recently
found that if we use a high score on a measure of such charac-
teristics at age 14 to predict that the youth’s score will be high
ten years later, we will be right only 16% of the time.18 Callous-
unemotional trait and capacities for empathy may be more
developmentally stable when measured in older adolescents.

But in states that allow 13- and
14-year-olds to face transfer
hearings, assessing their empathy
at that age tells us their current
empathic functioning at best, but
may tell us little about their
future capacity for empathy.

Second, judging from Heil-
brun’s description of court deci-
sions on this issue, few if any
courts have been thinking about
transfer evaluations as events to
which adolescents respond
according to their developmental
characteristics. They are focusing
on protecting defendants from self-incrimination in future
legal proceedings. But in the language of validity of waivers in
police interrogations, they are not thinking about the “totality
of circumstances.” Given youths’ relative immaturity—and
given the procedures employed by forensic examiners—what
are the possible threats to the reliability of the information that
will be obtained for the transfer hearing? Even with adequate
protections against the use of self-incriminating statements in
future adjudication of the offense, what are the implications
for the quality of information for purposes of the transfer hear-
ing itself?

To examine these implications, we must talk about the con-
text.19 There are some similarities between the transfer evalua-
tion and the police interrogation. In both contexts, an author-
ity figure meets with a subject in a setting in which the subject
is not free to leave (or is likely to perceive the situation in that
way). The authority figure and the subject are alone; there is no
legal counsel present.20 The authority figure gives the subject a
warning that the information can be used for some future legal
purpose. Both contexts typically involve some type of “conver-
sation” about the subject’s life circumstances (school, home,
etc.) before discussing the offense, often designed in part to cre-
ate a condition in which the subject will talk freely. Eventually
the topic of the alleged offense is raised, and the authority fig-
ure asks the subject to talk about it. With some variability, the
authority figures in both contexts may display a manner that
suggests to the subject that the reason for talking about the
alleged offense is in part to advance the subject’s own welfare.

There are also some differences between the two contexts.
Unlike the interrogation context, the juvenile is likely to have
been advised by legal counsel before the transfer evaluation.
The content of the warning in the transfer evaluation will dif-
fer from the Miranda warnings of police interrogations: for
example, that the evaluation will be used by the court to deter-
mine whether the youth will remain in juvenile court or be

Court Review – Volume 50 35

empathy [of
13- and 14-

year-olds facing
transfer to

criminal court]
may tell us

little about their
future capacity
for empathy.”

transferred to be tried as an adult; that if transferred, and if
found guilty, the youth will be subject to penalties like an
adult; that what the youth says now will not be used in that
future trial, only in the transfer hearing. In contrast to the
police interrogator, the forensic examiner will ask many more
questions about the juvenile’s general life and background to
meet the clinical purposes of the evaluation, as well as probing
much more about the juvenile’s motivations for the offense and
subsequent feelings about it.

At some point, the forensic examiner will pose the question:
“I’d like to talk to you about what happened that night in the
alley. Are you willing to do that?” And later, “How did you feel
afterwards?” Now the youth has to make some choices, many
of which are similar to those made in police interrogations:
whether to admit or deny or partially admit or deny and, in any
case, how to manage the questioning that will follow. And now
we encounter the same questions about the potential influence
of developmental immaturity on the youth’s decisions. Believ-
ing that authority figures like forensic examiners will help
them only if they confess, will they confess to things they did
not do? Fearing punishment, will they minimize their involve-
ment in the offense in ways that are clearly contradictory to
known facts, thus causing them to appear to be avoiding
responsibility? Seeking peer approval, will they put on a
remorseless face to impress their cohorts who are similarly
charged? Being traumatized by the offense itself, will they react
as many younger adolescents do by burying their emotions so
as not to be overwhelmed by them, leading to a flat appearance
that we can easily misinterpret as a sign of lack of remorse?

There is no research to tell us whether or how frequently
young people engage in such behaviors in transfer evaluations.
But as a forensic examiner who used to do many transfer eval-
uations, I have seen all of these reactions and had to contend
with their meaning. Over time I learned to distrust the transfer
evaluation interview as a place to learn about young people’s
degree of remorse—just as we distrust juveniles’ confessions in
police interrogations. Observing a young person’s sadness and
apologies, or lack of them, in the complex social context of a
transfer evaluation usually told me little that I could rely on.
Much better were data obtained from situations outside the
interview: for example, in the case of one youth, the docu-
mented fact that while he was fleeing from the alley where he
had just stabbed another boy in a fight, he stopped at some-
one’s house to alert 911 to the injured boy’s whereabouts before
going into hiding. Any competent forensic examiner will look
outside the interview for data to arrive at meaningful infer-
ences about remorse and empathy.

Heilbrun and his coauthors concluded that empathy related
to the offense was only a “smaller piece of the puzzle” for
determining amenability to rehabilitation, so that allowing
inquiry about the offense during transfer evaluations is not of
great value. Similarly, my analysis suggests that courts may be
overestimating the importance of allowing inquiry about the
offense in transfer evaluations. My reasoning, however, adds to
the problem the risk of the unreliability of information gained
in that context, given the influence of developmental immatu-
rity on juveniles’ responses to the transfer evaluation inquiry.

This brief commentary on the three preceding articles rein-

forces the value of “thinking developmentally” about adoles-
cents’ responses to police interrogations and legally relevant
clinical interviews. For police interrogations, it suggests that
our future thoughts about policy and law regarding special
protections for juveniles may need to go beyond “adoles-
cent–adult differences” to consider special protections related
to differences among …

Juveniles & Law Enforcement


  • 1877: New York state legislature passed first law in U.S. that dealt specifically with police treatment of juveniles.
  • April 1899: Illinois passed first act in U.S. that included a definition of juvenile delinquency.

Police & Juveniles

  • Police are usually juveniles first contact with the system
  • Police treatment of juveniles will influence their impression of both the juvenile and adult legal system
  • Police determine whether or not youths become further involved with the juvenile justice system
  • Police make on the spot adjustments also known as “street corner” justice
  • First role of police in dealing with juveniles is detection, investigation, interrogation, and arrest (custody)

Police & Juveniles

  • Police role is especially important because young persons’ views and attitudes toward law enforcement are shaped by their first encounter with a police officer
  • Juvenile offenders are involved in a disproportionately large number of crimes
  • Juveniles accounted for about 16% of violent crimes arrests and 26% of all property crimes arrests in 2005

Police & Juveniles

  • Police handle many non-criminal matters referred to as status offenses including running away, curfew violations, and truancy as well as non-delinquent juvenile matters such as neglect, abuse, and missing persons reports
  • Many youth view police officers on patrol not as a deterrent to delinquent behavior, but as a challenge to avoid detection and confrontation

Police & Juveniles

  • The immaturity of youth, coupled with limited parental supervision and negative peer influence present special problems for police who frequently encounter juveniles with little respect for law or authority
  • Juveniles also present a special problem for police because they are less cognizant of the consequences of their actions, and the effects of their delinquent behavior on their victims, their parents and families, their peers, and themselves

Police Roles & Responsibilities

  • Police are the most visible officials in the criminal justice system
  • Society entrusts a great deal of authority to police, but also expects a lot from them
  • Police are expected to provide public order and safety; to prevent crimes from occurring, and to find and apprehend offenders when crimes occur; and to perform a variety of law enforcement functions

Police Roles & Responsibilities

  • In reality, traditional police patrol does little to prevent crime. Police in most cases react to crime after it has already happened
  • Police perform three roles in fulfilling their law enforcement responsibilities: law enforcement, order maintenance, and service
  • The public and police have viewed the law enforcement function as the primary and most important task

Law Enforcement

  • Traditional law enforcement role of police is to detect and investigate crimes, and to apprehend those responsible for committing crimes
  • Police attempt to detect crimes through regular police patrols, and by responding to complaints from victims and statements from witnesses

Order Maintenance

  • The order maintenance function parallels the law enforcement role when officers intervene to control disorderly behavior
  • The order maintenance role is less clear than the law enforcement role, mainly because the behaviors being controlled are less clearly defined

Order Maintenance

  • The officer’s role may be that of telling participants of a loud party to quiet down, or dispersing a group of juveniles who are loitering on a street corner or in front of a business establishment
  • Controlling crowds during special events

Service Function

  • The third role of police is that of providing services to the public
  • This may include providing aid or assistance to persons in need, such as calling a tow truck for a stranded motorist; transporting abandoned or neglected children to a hospital or shelter facility; delivering a baby whose mother did not make it to the hospital on time

Service Function

  • The service function often results from a combination of functions
  • for example: when one officer transports abandoned children to a shelter, and another officer locates the parent(s) and initiates a child abuse investigation (a law enforcement function)

Service Function

  • The service function more recently has come to include an educational component, such as when police are assigned to schools to assist in the education of children and youth on the dangers of drug use and how to avoid drug use

Police Roles & Responsibilities

  • The three primary roles of police are very different on a number of dimensions: criminal vs. non-criminal, urgent vs. routine, and dangerous vs. relatively safe
  • Police officers generally view the law enforcement function as the primary role, while order maintenance and service tasks have been typically regarded with mixed feelings, ranging from ambivalence to disdain

Police-Juvenile Relations

  • The majority of police encounters with juveniles are in response to minor offenses that involve an order maintenance function of law enforcement
  • Regardless of the seriousness of the behavior however, the nature of the police-juvenile encounter can make a significant difference on police-juvenile relations

Police-Juvenile Relations

  • Juveniles are critical of police practices such as stopping and questioning them, asking them to “move on” and not loiter on street corners, parking lots, or in store fronts
  • African American and Hispanic youth, and those living in urban areas, are more critical of police than White students or those living in suburban or rural areas

Police-Juvenile Relations

  • Students often have ambivalent or mixed feelings about police. Research has found that a majority of students believed that police are friendly and hard working, but they also believed that officers are racially prejudiced and dishonest
  • The reasons for juveniles’ negative attitudes toward police are likely the inevitable result of police officers’ fair but unpopular restrictions on young peoples’ behaviors

Police-Juvenile Relations

  • The service functions of policing takes on a special emphasis in relation to juveniles. Police are expected to protect children and to prevent delinquency
  • The primary reason for the inclusion of status offenses in all juvenile statutes, in fact, is for child protection and delinquency prevention

Police-Juvenile Relations

  • Many cities have implemented curfew laws in an effort to get children and youth off the streets at night, reduce their opportunities to get into trouble, and therefore prevent delinquency
  • Violation of curfew laws is a status offense—illegal only for those of juvenile age
  • Curfew laws may have little effect on juvenile crime because there is evidence that a significant proportion of juvenile crimes occur immediately after school hours
  • Between 3 p.m. and before 6 p.m.

Police Roles & Discretion

  • Police are permitted to exercise a great deal of discretion in their duties. That is they have the ability to choose between different courses of action, depending on their particular assignment
  • Discretionary authority among police is greater at the lowest levels of the organization

Police Roles & Discretion

  • The nature of police discretion varies with the different police roles
  • In law enforcement situations, police must resolve whether a crime occurred, whether there is sufficient evidence to justify stopping a suspect for questioning, taking into custody, or making an arrest
  • Order maintenance situation leaves more room for police discretion, as “public order” and “disorderly conduct” are not so clearly defined.
  • Police decisions and discretion in the service function are equally difficult

Juvenile Offending & Discretion

  • Police have considerable discretionary power in handling juvenile matters, ranging from reprimand and release, to transporting a juvenile to detention and referral to juvenile court
  • Most police contact with juveniles is non-official, and police make an arrest and take juveniles into custody in only a small percentage of cases

Juvenile Offending & Discretion

  • Myers (2002) found that police took juveniles into custody in only 13% of their encounters with juveniles.
  • Most of the police-juvenile encounters involved non-criminal matters

Juvenile Offending & Discretion

  • Police discretion has been criticized because some believe that police abuse their broad discretionary powers, and that they base their decisions on extra-legal factors other than the offense
  • Extra-legal factors such as sex, race, socioeconomic status, and individual characteristics of the offender have been shown to make a difference in police officers’ decisions of whether or not to take official action


  • Response to a complaint or a crime will normally lead to an investigation by police and may lead to an arrest
  • Stationhouse adjustment
  • Youth taken into custody, verbal reprimand, released to parents
  • Detection is often left to persons or agencies outside the police department
  • When police are assigned to a specific neighborhood and know the area, its people, problems and resources, they become effective forces in detection and deterrence of delinquency.


  • Community policing
  • Partnership between police and community to work together to solve problems and address community concerns
  • Officers assigned regular neighborhoods
  • Foot and bicycle patrols
  • Community watch programs
  • Creates better relations between police and community
  • Officers can take greater interest in youths in the area

Alternatives to Police Arrest and Custody

  • Questioning, warning, and release in the community= the least severe sanction, a police officer gives a warning and reprimand on the street without taking formal actions
  • Station Adjustment=police may take a youth into custody and to the station, record the alleged minor offense and actions taken, give the youth an official reprimand and release the youth to the parents

Alternatives to Police Arrest and Custody

  • Referral to a Diversion Agency = police may release and refer a juvenile to a Youth Service Bureau (YSB), Big Brother/Big Sister, runaway center or mental health agency
  • Considered preferable for many first-time offenders and troubled youth

Alternatives to Police Arrest and Custody

  • Issuing a Citation and Referring to Juvenile Court = police officer can issue a citation and refer the youth to juvenile court. The intake probation officer accepts the referral, contacts parents, and releases the youth to the parents on the condition that they will report to court when ordered to do so. The intake officer then determines whether a formal delinquency petition should be filed

Alternatives to Police Arrest and Custody

  • Taking to a Detention Center or Shelter Home = police officer can issue a citation, refer the youth to the juvenile court and take him or her to a detention center. The intake officer at the detention center then decides whether to hold the juvenile or release him or her to the parents. Juveniles are detained when they are considered dangerous, when there is a lack of parental supervision, or when there is a high probability that they will not report to court when ordered to do so


  • Extremely important that police investigate the act thoroughly so that the youth may not be falsely labeled a delinquent
  • Officer has to learn as much about the alleged offense or abuse as possible in the shortest time
  • Interviewing is more art than science and must be learned
  • Restrictions placed on questioning subjects
  • If interview is successful the police will normally have sufficient proof of a suspect’s guilt or innocence


  • Haley v. Ohio 332 U.S. 596 (1948)
  • Whether a juvenile’s statements are voluntary depends on:
  • length of questioning
  • child’s age
  • time of day or night of questioning
  • whether the child was fed and allowed to rest
  • whether the child was allowed child’s rights
  • “Fundamental Fairness” is best test of a child’s rights
  • Concept varies by jurisdiction


  • Fare v. Michael C., 442 U.S. 707 (1979)
  • A juvenile’s waiver of Miranda rights will be suspect if given without the advice of a parent or adult guardian. The determination whether a juvenile’s waiver is voluntary and knowing is one to be resolved on the totality of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation. The court must determine not only that the statements were not coerced or suggested, but also that they were not the products of ignorance of rights or of adolescent fantasy, fright, or despair.


  • Fare v. Michael C., Cont’d
  • Totality of circumstances – factors considered:
  • juvenile’s age, experience, education, background, and intelligence, whether he has the capacity to understand the warning given to him, the nature of his Fifth Amendment rights, and the consequences of waiving them.


  • Woods v. Clusen, 794 F. 2nd 293 (1986)
  • Juveniles cannot be subject to aggressive police interrogation practices.
  • Officers must observe constitutional rights of juvenile and provide for “fundamental fairness.”


  • JDB v. North Carolina, 564 U.S. _____(2011)
  • Should courts consider the age of a juvenile suspect in deciding whether he or she is in custody for Miranda purposes?
  • Yes. “It is beyond dispute that children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult in the same circumstances would feel free to leave.”


Arrest & Miranda Rights

  • Ernesto Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966)
  • Suspects must be informed of their Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights before custodial interrogation
  • Custody + Interrogation = Miranda triggers
  • Does not guarantee that a juvenile knows what they mean
  • Must officers administer Miranda warnings to juveniles? Should they be modified for juveniles?

Miranda Rights

  • You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?

Miranda Rights

  • Two Miranda triggers:
  • Custody and Interrogation
  • Custody
  • When a reasonable person does not feel free to leave
  • Applies even if suspect not told they are “under arrest”.

Miranda Rights

  • Interrogation
  • Different from Interview
  • Suspect asked questions that may incriminate him or her

Miranda Waiver

  • A waiver of Miranda Rights is valid if it is;
  • (1) knowing,
  • (2) intelligent,
  • (3) voluntary,
  • (4) express or implied,
  • (5) timely, and
  • (6) not the product of impermissible pre-waiver tactics.

Arrest & Custody

  • Reasons for taking a child into custody;
  • Legal detention order
  • Custody is necessary for safety of child
  • Custody is necessary to ensure a child’s appearance in court
  • Child has committed a felony
  • Child has committed a misdemeanor in officer’s presence
  • Child is a runaway
  • Child is truant

Arrest & Custody

  • Factors in decision to arrest;
  • Demeanor of offender
  • Seriousness of offense
  • Group offenses
  • Victim priorities
  • Sex: Males are more likely to be arrested

Neglected & Abused Juveniles

  • Neglected children
  • Parents fail them completely
  • Parents inadequately meet their basic needs

Neglected & Abused juveniles

  • Abused children
  • Evidence of battered child syndrome and fear of recurring abuse by parents
  • Lack of appropriate adult supervision, discipline or guidance
  • Sexual exploitation of children whether incestuous or for money
  • Failure to provide basic needs of food, clothing and shelter
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