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 the police.
“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.