Juvenile defendants may be vulnerable to interrogation tactics

When readers think of crimes involving minors, underage drinking might come to the forefront. Yet minors can also be accused of much more serious offenses, such as sexual assault. Regardless of the charges, it is important for juveniles to be represented by experienced criminal defense attorneys.

For example, without competent counsel, a number of procedural violations might be committed against juvenile defendants, perhaps resulting in false confessions. According to a review of juvenile exonerations between 1989 and 2004, 42 percent involved false confessions. That’s a much higher occurrence than the 13 percent rate of false confessions among adults. In addition, psychological research indicates that youth may be more likely to falsely confess when they are pressured to do so.

A criminal defense attorney knows that interrogation techniques can be intimidating even to adults. Among minors, however, the psychological pressure of agreeing with authority figures, coupled with the power of suggestion, may increase the risk of a false confession. Unfortunately, one survey of 178 police officers found that only around 20 percent had received training in adolescent development. As a result, officials may be using the same interrogation methods on juveniles as they do on adults.

An attorney that focuses on criminal defense and juvenile crimes can work to ensure that youthful defendants are afforded all available procedural protections. The criminal justice system should give all defendants the opportunity for a fair defense, regardless of age. An attorney can help youthful offenders prepare a strong defense and utilize their presumption of innocence until proven guilty by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

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