Questioning, Interrogation & Confessions of Juveniles

New Jersey Juvenile Defense Lawyer

Questioning, Interrogation & Confessions

Parents are often shocked to learn that their child has been questioned by police without a parent being present. Most parents are also suspicious when they contact our juvenile lawyers that the questioning was essentially an interrogation. Our NJ law firm, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, frequently confirm this suspicion and are confronted with children who have made a confession long before their parents even know there is any trouble. While confessions can be troublesome, the attorneys at our law office are experienced in dealing with these situations and are knowledgeable concerning use of juvenile statements and confessions in a case. Please do not hesitate to contact our office if your child is under investigation or has been charged with a criminal offense. An attorney from our NJ criminal defense law firm is happy to answer your questions and/or meet with you. We handle these cases statewide including Monmouth County, Ocean County, Mercer County, Burlington County, Middlesex County, Union County, Essex County, Somerset County, Passaic County, Hudson County, and Bergen County. The following is a compilation of significant case law in New Jersey with respect to juvenile interrogation, statements, and confessions.

Interrogation of Children Under Fourteen Years of Age

A confession resulting from the interrogation of a child under the age of 14 is inadmissible as a matter of law unless the parent or legal guardian was unwilling to be present or truly unavailable to appear for the interrogation. State v. Presha, 163 N.J. 304 (2000).

In the case of In re State in the Interest of S.H., 61 N.J. 108 (1972), the New Jersey Supreme Court excluded the confession of a 10-year-old boy made when he was placed in a detective’s office for 90 minutes, only 10 minutes of which were accounted for, and his father was available to be present but was sent home by police. The conduct of the police not only precluded the admissibility of the confession made at that time but a subsequent confession made while the boy’s father was present.

In another case, State v. R. W., 115 N.J.Super. 286 (App.Div.), affirmed 61 N.J. 118 (1971), the Courts found a confession made by a 12-year-old juvenile admissible where he concealed his name and address from police thereby precluding police from contacting his parents so that they could be present during questioning.

An oral admission made by a 13-year-old boy following five hours of successive questioning by at least two police officers regarding his causing a death was inadmissible in In re State in the Interest of Carlo, 48 N.J. 224 (1966).

Children Over Fourteen Years of Age

Fifteen-year-old juvenile’s oral confession was not inadmissible in delinquency proceedings on grounds of its unreliability due to his subnormal mentality, where there was bona fide effort by police to locate the juvenile’s mother, and where questioning was continued with juvenile’s consent when his mother could not be reached and was conducted with utmost fairness without force or other improper influence, mental or physical, in compliance with highest standards of due process and fundamental fairness. In re In re State in Interest of A. B. M., 125 N.J.Super. 162 (App.Div.), affirmed 63 N.J. 531 (1973).

Juvenile’s confession was voluntary under then-existing standards, even though his mother was absent from interrogation area at that time, and even though officer did not accede to mother’s request to reenter; juvenile was nearly 17 at time of his interrogation, he had been arrested on 15 prior occasions and was thus familiar with criminal process at time of his statement, police afforded him numerous breaks in interrogation, mother was present at outset of encounter with police, she had opportunity to offer support to juvenile and to witness signing of Miranda card, and she and juvenile agreed that she should not be present during interrogation. State v. Presha, 163 N.J. 304 (2000).

Although police officer testified that he had a report of breaking and entering which named juvenile as a participant, where there was no testimony corroborating any of details in juvenile’s confession, i.e., that two other persons were with juvenile, that they broke in through back window by pushing wood in, that they searched a desk and took some money out, and that they did not actually take away any money or liquor because they were scared off, independent evidence offered by state to corroborate complaint of breaking and entering was not sufficient to corroborate confession, and adjudication of delinquency based on complaint would be reversed. In re State In Interest of W. J., 116 N.J.Super. 462 (App.Div.1971).

If you have any questions regarding a juvenile case, please do not hesitate to contact our New Jersey defense law firm. A lawyer from our law office would be happy to answer your questions and to schedule a free initial consultations. We handle juvenile case statewide including Ocean County, Monmouth County, Middlesex County, Mercer County, Union County, Somerset County, Passaic County, Essex County, Hudson County and Bergen County. Our lawyers are available to speak to you immediately.