Ohio Juveniles: What to Do if the Police Want to Talk to You
Should juveniles talk to the police?
No. There are a million reasons why you should not talk to the police if you are at the center of an investigation, or even if you have some knowledge about potential illegal activity. Even if you were not directly involved in the illegal activity, talking to the police can cause some real legal problems for you that you probably didn’t expect when you agreed to talk to the police.
Juveniles have the right to remain silent
First, those under suspicion of committing a crime are granted the right to remain silent by the United States Constitution, and this right extends to children as well as adults. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states that “No person. . .shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” This means that no juvenile may be compelled to testify in court or to answer questions of law enforcement if under suspicion.
Juveniles Have the Right to An Attorney
Second, you and your children have the right to communicate with courts and police through an attorney. An attorney knows the ins and outs of courts and investigations, and can ensure that the police get the information they are entitled to by law without your help. You do not have a responsibility to help police solve their case when you are a suspect or a potential suspect in the case.
You Must be Very Clear that You Want an Attorney Before Police Have to Stop Talking to You
Finally, when the police ask you to come down to the station to be interviewed, respond with these words, “I want to talk to a lawyer first.” Then call me. You do not have to, nor should you ever, talk to the police if you are a suspect or a possible suspect in the commission of a crime.
Often, when talking to police, a person may ask the investigator, “Should I get a lawyer?” or “Do you think I need a lawyer?”. Police, by law, do not have to answer that question for you, nor do they have to encourage you to get a lawyer. Once you are in police custody, they need to read you your Miranda Warning, which contains a clause that you have a right to have an attorney present. But you must clearly state that you will not answer any questions or any further questions until you can speak to a lawyer before the police have to stop questioning you. Just because you mention the word lawyer, or indicate you are thinking about a lawyer, does not mean that police will stop questioning you.
Even if you are only tangentially involved in an event arousing police suspicion, and even before you have been formally taken into police custody, you should have a lawyer by your side to speak on your behalf and to get any information the police may already have.
Juvenile Clients Often Want to Talk to the Police
Below are some of the objections I hear clients make when I advise them not to talk to the police, followed by how I would likely answer those objections.
- Juvenile Client: “I Want to Help the Police and Cooperate with Them”
The best way to cooperate with police investigators is with an attorney by your side. Often my clients want to be helpful to the police, and that is very admirable. Children know that police are an important part of the justice system and they are needed to ‘catch bad guys”. But once police are investigating a crime and have you as a suspect, things are different. They are trying to develop a theory for their case, trying to get as much information as they can to help them develop their theory. If you are at the center of their suspicions, you will be up against professional crime investigators, and you are no match for them.
The Miranda warning states, “everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” If you have not been arrested and are just being interviewed, the police are under no obligation to remind you that you have the right to remain silent, or that you have the right to an attorney. When the police ask for an interview, they also do not have to tell you what evidence they already have, what witnesses they have spoken to, or anything else that anyone has said about you. They don’t even have to tell you whether or not you are suspect.
The police are allowed by law to tell you that they have information that they do not have. I had one juvenile client who incriminated himself after the police told him that he had text messages from my client admitting to everything he was accused of. In reality, the police officer had talked to other suspects in the case who said there were such text messages, but there was no reliable evidence of these text messages that could have been used in Court. As a result, our client was charged with a very serious crime before calling us. Fortunately, we were able to argue on his behalf and get his charges reduced so that he did not have to spend any time in juvenile detention, but only had to spend a year on probation before his record was completely cleared.
- Juvenile Client: “I Will Look Guilty if I Ask to Talk to a Lawyer.”
The fact that you refused to talk to the police cannot be used against you. In talking to the police, you could unwittingly say something that gives them reason to think you are guilty, or gives them additional evidence that they can use to officially charge you with a crime. The police might have heightened suspicion that you are guilty if you ask to talk to a lawyer, but mere suspicions cannot harm you. The police need evidence.
- Juvenile Client: “But I am Innocent and Want to Clear My Name”
Many juveniles want to talk to the police and explain their innocence to investigators. Believe it or not, you may not even know if you are innocent of violating some law. You cannot be expected to know all of the laws that are on the books. We’ve often heard it said, and it is true, that “ignorance of the law is no excuse” for breaking the law. If the police are asking to talk to you, there is a good possibility that they believe you have broken a law, and they may have evidence to support their belief. However, their evidence may be very weak, and they don’t have to tell you about any evidence they have before or during their interview.
- Juvenile Client: “I Have Some Information that Might Be Helpful to the Police.”
Often, a juvenile client has some information about a case, and wants to help police by giving them more information and telling them what they know. The trouble here is that, in the process of trying to help the police, you may be putting yourself into a situation that gives the police evidence against you. There are too many unknown factors for you. If you have any involvement in a case, you should not speak to police investigators without an attorney.
Hire A Lawyer Before Talking to Police
Always hire a lawyer before you or your child talk to the police. The lawyers of Dearie, Fischer & Mathews can help you get more information about your case and can talk to the police for you. We have a great deal of experience talking with the police departments in Lebanon, Beavercreek, and the surrounding areas: Warren, Montgomery, Butler and Greene Counties, and all of southwest Ohio. Lebanon Office, serving greater Cincinnati: 513-228-6922 Beavercreek Office, serving greater Dayton: 937-306-6402.