There are many reasons why teenagers are not legally deemed ready to take care of themselves until the age of 18. These reasons are apparent in the decisions that individuals who fit into that demographic make, every day. In addition, studies indicated that when it comes to making critical decisions that could have a long-term impact, teens are not developmentally ready. A recent study highlights this in the context of police interrogations.
The study focused on videotaped interrogations of young people between the ages of 13 and 17. The 57 videos, which were from 17 police departments located nationwide, were observed to among other things, determine how much the teens actually understood what was going on. The results were astounding.
None of the teens in the recordings requested that they be able to talk with a lawyer. In addition, 31 percent of the teenagers being interrogated made statements that were incriminating. A higher percentage, 37 percent, actually made full confessions. These results prompt some to question the validity of these confessions. The author of the study states that penalizing juveniles with long-term legal consequences based on the poor decision making that goes along with development that is not yet complete, is not fair. Many parents of young people would likely agree.
While it is important for anyone who is under suspicion of having committed a crime and being interrogated to seek the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer, this is even more imperative where juveniles are concerned. Among other things, this is because many teens do not understand their Miranda rights or that police officers might lie in the course of an interrogation to try to get a suspect to confess. Teenagers also think less about the future and the repercussions that their actions could have.
The way in which a criminal allegation against a teen is resolved can greatly impact his or her future. This is true regardless of the criminal charge a juvenile is facing. Accordingly, it is important to do what one can to build a strong defense. In most cases this involves the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer.
Source: The New York Times, "In Interrogations, Teenagers Are Too Young to Know Better," Jan Hoffman, Oct. 13, 2014