Legislators Should Leave the Child Interrogation Protection Act in PlaceThe Maryland Child Interrogation Protection Act went into effect on October 1, 2022. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Act protects children/juveniles in several ways:

  • There is a requirement that the child be able to consult with a lawyer when he/she is taken into custody unless there is a public safety emergency.
  • The parents or guardians of the child must be notified that their child is in custody.
  • The law creates a rebuttable presumption that any statements made by the child during a custodial interrogation are not admissible if “a law enforcement officer willfully failed to comply” with the law’s requirements.

According to the ACLU, the rebuttable presumption is necessary because nearly 90 percent of children waive their rights. The ACLU adds that, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, more than one-third of exonerees who were under 18 when an offense occurred had falsely confessed – a rate of triple the “estimated rate of false confessions for all ages.”

The Child Interrogation Protection Act helps to ensure that children will not have to face criminal charges, prosecution, and imprisonment without having a parent, guardian, or lawyer present. The ACLU adds that many of the children who are interrogated without a parent, guardian, or lawyer are Black.

Another juvenile justice law, the Juvenile Justice Reform Law, provides additional protection for children, such as removing barriers to the diversion of children out of the criminal legal system.

Reasons to keep the Child Interrogation Protection Act intact

According to The Baltimore Banner, the Child Interrogation Protection Act is under attack once again. There are already proposals for changes, amendments, and tweaks. The law only applies when a child is not free to leave, which is precisely why children give false confessions – so they can leave.

Some of the reasons for keeping the current law intact, according to The Baltimore Banner, include:

  • False confessions mean the true perpetrator of the crime stays free
  • An innocent child is incarcerated
  • Our communities are not safer when the wrong person is in jail

Now, some prosecutors and law enforcement officers are complaining that the Child Protection Interrogation Act is making their job harder. The obvious reply to that, of course, is that we should prioritize protecting children and communities rather than looking for quick convictions.

Children, according to the Baltimore Banner, often have a much different idea of what the Miranda warning that “You have the right to remain silent” means than adults. Children often think staying silent just means staying quiet and not causing a scene – not that their statements could be used against them in court proceedings. Children, especially younger children, are “uniquely susceptible to pressure by adults.” The publication confirms that 90 percent of juveniles waive their Miranda rights. The publication adds that the pressure on Black children to waive their rights is even higher because, based on prior experiences or understandings, they are likely to be quite afraid of the police.

The Baltimore Banner’s analysis of false confessions is even more severe than the ACLU’s analysis. The newspaper states that:

In a laboratory study, most children who were asked to sign a false confession did so without protest. Studies of wrongful convictions reveal that children are two to three times more likely to falsely confess than adults. Among children younger than 14, a shocking 86 percent of exonerations included false confessions.

Other states, including California, Hawaii, and Washington, have similar child protection interrogation laws.

To help ensure that the attorney requirement of Maryland’s Child Protection Interrogation Act is complied with, the Maryland Office of the Public Defender has a staffed hotline available virtually every moment of every day of the year. When police want to question a child who doesn’t have a criminal defense lawyer, they must call the hotline.

There are just too many examples of children confessing to crimes they didn’t commit to warrant modifications to the existing Child Interrogation Protection Act. For example, in the Harlem Park Three case, three people who were under 16 at the time of the offense each served 36 years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. The Baltimore Banner asks, if these three children were your children, “Would you want to be notified that police had arrested them? Would you want your child to speak with a defense attorney before waiving their constitutional rights?”

According to The Daily Record, as of January 2024, the Maryland legislature is considering some criminal justice reforms to the laws it passed in 2022, including the Child Interrogation Protection Act and  legislation restricting the use of detention and “capping the length of probation periods.” Both parties are considering some “tweaks” to the juvenile justice laws and system, including agreements that “the Department of Juvenile Services is in need of administrative changes that should come from the executive branch, not legislators.”

Legislators expressed concerns about the balance of keeping juvenile proceedings out of the public eye with the need to inform the public about how youth crime in Maryland is being handled, in light of “anecdotes about frightening crime sprees and kids being returned home after committing serious offenses.” That concern is countered by Maryland Department of Juvenile Services data that states as of September (2023), “the department reported that overall juvenile complaints in fiscal year 2023 were slightly lower than pre-pandemic levels,” though some crimes spiked while others fell.

If your child was charged with a juvenile offense, our respected criminal defense lawyer has 40 years of experience fighting for juveniles and adults. He understands what laws protect juveniles, how the juvenile system works, what options are available if a juvenile is found delinquent, and what defenses apply. He’s helped protect numerous juveniles and fights to ensure that the emphasis is on helping juveniles, not confining them. Carey Law Office has locations in Bowie, Crofton, and Dunkirk. Call us or contact us now to schedule a consultation. We also serve Calvert County.