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Miranda Rights and Juveniles: Are Kids Old Enough To Waive Miranda Rights?

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney before speaking to the police and to have one in the future. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you…” These are the well-know Miranda warnings that are ubiquitous in criminal TV dramas, but also are important and read aloud by police officers at the time that a criminal defendant is arrested. Though the Miranda rights “quote” is famous, its plain meaning sometimes gets lost and often a criminal defendant under arrest really does not understand what the Miranda rights actually protect. What does it mean that a person may remain silent? What does it mean that you have the right to an attorney? This confusion is compounded by the fact that there is no set script or wording that must be stated; in other words most Miranda warnings are spoken in a variety of different ways around the country, with the only consistent aspect of the wording to be the plain meaning at its heart.

The Protection of Miranda Rights Against Self-Incrimination

Miranda rights are read to defendants who are in police custody at the time of their arrests so that it is known to these defendants that there is no requirement to speak to the police, and that they are permitted to have an attorney advocating on their behalf before, during, and after police interrogation. At the time that Miranda rights are read, the defendant is given the option to waive these rights or not. Generally, adult criminal defendants understand what is happening at the time of the arrest that when they decide to waive their Miranda rights and speak to officers without an attorney present, it is not considered coerced or involuntary.

Miranda Rights and Juveniles

However, juveniles, at an alarming rate, waive their Miranda rights largely because they do not understand what Miranda rights are, nor are they fully explained what rights they do or do not have. Some studies have estimated that juveniles waive their Miranda rights at a rate of 90 percent. According to researched performed by Harvard Medical School and others in 2014, 52 percent of the 371 variations of wording of Miranda rights required at least an eighth-grade reading level. Comprehension suffers by at least 20 percent due to the added stress that impacts those juveniles under arrest. Another issue beyond the reading level required to understand Miranda rights is the requisite memory of all the rights that are included in Miranda. In other words, Miranda rights requires those listening to not only understand these rights but also remember what is included later on after the arrest and during the interrogation.

Should Juveniles Be Able to Waive Miranda Rights? Do They Understand What They Mean and Their Consequences of Waiving Them?

Several cases have come forth about whether or not juveniles actually waived their Miranda rights or whether the Miranda rights were not stated in a way that they understood what rights are protected under the law. Some states have considered adopting a new Miranda standard that would provide juveniles an easier-to-understand version of Miranda, as well as determining at what age juveniles are able to waive these rights, confess to committing a crime, or even speak to a police officer without a parent or guardian in the first place.

Admissibility of Juvenile Confession and Miranda Rights in Florida

In Florida, a juvenile confession must be examined for the following factors:

  • How the Miranda rights were administered by the police, whether there were any tricks or tactics used during their reading;
  • The age, mental ability, past experience, and background of the juvenile;
  • Whether there was a parent or attorney present at the time of the confession,
  • Where the confession took place; and
  • Whether or not there was a signed, written waiver of Miranda rights before the confession.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

Miranda rights are important in protecting criminal defendants from self-incrimination during a police interrogation. If you or a loved one believe that their Miranda rights were violated, it is important to speak with an experienced defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik who can advocate on your behalf. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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