When news of a particularly gruesome or brutal crime breaks, many people in New Jersey are understandably upset. Many want to find the person who did it and get him or her off of the streets. When initial reports list a teenager or a young person as the perpetrator, it can be hard not to come down harshly on him or her, but that is a temptation that certainly police and prosecutors, but also the public, need to avoid.

Just like with an adult crime, someone accused of a juvenile crime is entitled to certain rights and protections, including Miranda warnings. The problem is, however, that young people often do not understand their Miranda rights. Most people under the age of 16 don’t understand the language being used. Even teenagers a little older don’t quite get that the Miranda warnings are in place to help protect them.

It is no wonder, then, that so many teenagers go on to waive their Miranda rights and are willing to talk to police without a lawyer present. It is also not surprising that they fall prey to the same interrogation techniques that police use on adults.

A recent survey has found that almost all police officers responsible for interrogating teenagers and young people will use the same methods of interrogation that they would use on an adult. Perhaps this is not surprising, as only one in five have had some training on adolescent development.

Even though many of us want to make sure that violent offenders are off of the streets, regardless of their ages, we also need to make sure that we aren’t putting teenagers in a position in which they can confess to crimes they have never committed. Teenagers are different, and people charged with juvenile crimes should not be interrogated like adults.

Source: Pacific Standard, “How Can We Prevent False Confessions From Kids and Teenagers?” Lauren Kirchner, June 17, 2014