A sharply divided Ohio Supreme Court concluded that a children’s
services case worker does not need to provide Miranda warnings to a minor
before interrogating him about a potential sexual assault.
Ohio criminal defense lawyer Brad Koffel was dumbfounded with the Court’s
reasoning, “government employees who interview minors about crimes
act as evidence collectors for criminal investigators, and, as such,
should be required to warn a minor (or at least the parents of the minor) that he cannot
be compelled to provide evidence against himself.”
Justice Sharon Kennedy wrote the decision and concluded that a Cuyahoga
County child-abuse investigator did not violate the constitutional rights
of a 13-year-old boy when she provided police with a confession she obtained
from him in which he admitted having sexual activity with a 12-year-old
girl. The Court wrote that
Miranda warnings were not necessary because the child-abuse investigator was not
a law enforcement officer or acting under the direction or control of
“Justice Kennedy’s decision reflects a lack of understanding as to
juvenile sexual assault cases are investigated,” according to Koffel.
Justice Kennedy also stated that under U.S. Supreme Court rulings, M.H.’s
due process rights were not violated because no “police conduct”
was involved in obtaining the confession. Justices Patrick F. Fischer
and R. Patrick DeWine joined Justice Kennedy’s decision. Justice
Judith L. French concurred in judgment only.
In a dissenting opinion Justice Melody J. Stewart wrote that the child-abuse
investigator, a former homicide detective, acted coercively to obtain
M.H.’s involuntary confession. Justice Stewart wrote the investigator
knew that she would be reporting any potential criminal acts to police.
Justice Stewart stated that the U.S. Supreme Court does not limit the
use of coercive behavior to police officers, but to any government official
who pressures someone to make a statement with the intention of providing
the information to law enforcement.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justice Michael P. Donnelly joined
Justice Stewart’s dissent.