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Can Ohio Police Interview Juveniles Without Their Parents Present?

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The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 10 of the Ohio Constitution ensure that no person shall be forced to be a witness against himself in a criminal proceeding, this includes juvenile proceedings.

United States Supreme Court held that to protect against the inherent risk of coercion during a custodial interrogation, procedural safeguards are needed to ensure the defendant's right against self-incrimination. United States vs Miranda.

So what is a custodial interrogation?

Under federal and state law, a custodial interrogation is defined as " ‘questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.

In this instance, a citizen must be warned prior to any questioning that he has the right to remain silent, that anything he says can be used against him in a court of law, that he has the right to the presence of an attorney, and that if he cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for him prior to any questioning if he so desires.

However, what happens if that citizen is a minor? The Supreme Court of Ohio has concluded that to determine whether a suspect is knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waiving his Miranda rights, the reviewing court must engage in a totality of the circumstances analysis. State v. Barker, 149 Ohio St.3d 1.

The totality of circumstances includes:

  1. The accused's age, mentality, and prior criminal experience;
  2. The length, intensity, and frequency of the interrogation;
  3. The existence of physical deprivation or mistreatment; and
  4. The existence of inducement or threat.

When the suspect is a juvenile, the factors include: " 'the juvenile's age, experience, education, background, and intelligence as well as his capacity to understand the warnings given him, the nature of his Fifth Amendment rights, and the consequences of waiving those rights.

Unfortunately, the state of Ohio has declined to join other states that provide per se rules that invalidate a juvenile's Miranda waiver without additional protections, such as requiring a parent or guardian present, during an interrogation.

The Supreme Court of Ohio has also declined to require a parent or guardian present during the interrogation of a juvenile writing.

However, the Supreme Court of Ohio did acknowledge the lack of a parent is a factor in determining whether the waiver was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary.

The prudent Ohio defense attorney representing a juvenile who was questioned without his / her parents being present at a police department must file a motion to suppress and build out all the facts and circumstances supporting suppression of the juvenile’s statement.