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Colorado Criminal Juvenile Law – What Happens If My Child Is Not Given and / or Waives His/Her Miranda Warnings During An Interrogation?

In a recent 2012 decision in Colorado, the Colorado Supreme Court reasserted a juvenile’s right to receive the Miranda warnings with a parent present and to have those rights given and waived – before the child can be interrogated. The significance of section 19-2-511

Here are the facts and the law:

The Facts:

In this case the prosecution filed a petition in delinquency against S.X.G., alleging acts which, if committed by an adult, would constitute the offenses of second degree burglary, criminal mischief, and theft.

The Juvenile moved to suppress certain statements he made to a police detective during an investigatory interview on the grounds that they were improperly obtained in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), and section 19-2-511(1), C.R.S. (2011), which generally provides that statements or admissions of a juvenile made during a custodial interrogation are inadmissible against the juvenile unless the juvenile’s parent, guardian, or legal or physical custodian was present during the interview and also advised of the juvenile’s Miranda rights.

The juvenile’s mother was present during the custodial interrogation. After a hearing the judge issued an order suppressing statements S.X.G. made during the second part of his interview, following an approximately two-hour break in the questioning.

The Judge  concluded that S.X.G. and his mother did not freely, knowingly, and intelligently waive their rights before the second part of the interview. The Judge also concluded that (1) the detective’s comment to S.X.G.’s mother, “Now, Mom, I want you to just bear with him during this, okay,” and his statement to S.X.G. to “go ahead,” effectively “usurped the role of the parent” in the interview by suggesting to the parent that she should be silent and allow S.X.G. to respond; (2) the intent of the detective’s statement was to influence the mother to withhold guidance to the juvenile; and (3) the detective’s comment interfered with the exercise of the juvenile’s and the mother’s rights.

The Miranda Decision and Colorado Juvenile Law:

The Issues:

1. The history and purpose behind Miranda and the protections it affords suspects that are subject to custodial interrogations.

2. The significance of section 19-2-511 and the special protections that statute provides juveniles who are in custody and being interrogated without the presence of a responsible adult.  

3. The factors a court must consider when making a predicate custody determination.  

4. The ‘reasonable person’ and ‘totality of the circumstances’ standards that a court must utilize in making predicate custody determinations.

Miranda Protections for Colorado Juveniles

In Miranda, the Supreme Court recognized that without adequate safeguards, the process of interrogating suspects who are in custody contains “inherently compelling pressures which work to undermine the individual’s will to resist and to compel him to speak where he would not otherwise do so freely.”  The Court in Miranda was tremendously concerned with the “deprivation of the suspect’s freedom followed by his isolation from friends and family.” 

An individual swept from familiar surroundings into police custody, surrounded by antagonistic forces, and subjected to the techniques of persuasion · cannot be otherwise than under compulsion to speak.  Miranda, 384 U.S. at 461, 86 S.Ct. 1602.

Thus, the Miranda court held that if a person in custody is subject to an interrogation, he must be informed in clear and unequivocal terms that he has the right to remain silent; that anything he says may be used against him; that he has the right to the presence of an attorney; and that if he cannot afford one, one will be appointed for him. 

If a person in custody is not properly apprised of these rights, or fails to make a knowing and intelligent waiver of those rights, the prosecution may not introduce any statement procured from the custodial interrogation in their case in chief.  

Significance of Colorado Juvenile Code Section 19-2-511

The General Assembly enacted section 19-2-511. in order both to codify the Miranda requirements detailed above and to extend those protections to juveniles.

However, under section 19-2-511(1), the General Assembly affords juveniles in the custody of law enforcement additional protections.  The statute requires the presence of a responsible adult during the custodial interrogation of a juvenile.  If a responsible adult is not present during a custodial interrogation, the statute excludes statements made by the juvenile as a result of the custodial interrogation. 

The clear purpose of the statute “is to afford a special protection to a juvenile who is in police custody because of alleged criminal acts”.   Specifically, section 19-2-511(1) provides that no statements of a juvenile made as a result of a custodial interrogation shall be admissible in evidence unless a responsible adult is present.  The statute also requires that when a juvenile is in custody, the juvenile and a responsible adult must be made aware of the juvenile’s right against self incrimination and right to counsel during an interrogation. 

Here again is the relevant Colorado Juvenile Criinal Law:

Section 19-2-511(1) reads:

No statements or admissions of a juvenile made as a result of the custodial interrogation of such juvenile by a law enforcement official concerning delinquent acts alleged to have been committed by the juvenile shall be admissible in evidence against such juvenile unless a parent, guardian, or legal or physical custodian of the juvenile was present at such interrogation and the juvenile and his or her parent, guardian, or legal or physical custodian were advised of the juvenile’s right to remain silent and that any statements made may be used against him or her in a court of law, or his or her right to the presence of an attorney during such interrogation, and of his or her right to have counsel appointed if he or she so requests at the time of the interrogation;

…except that, if a public defender or counsel representing the juvenile is present at such interrogation, such statements or admissions may be admissible in evidence even though the juvenile’s parent, guardian, or legal or physical custodian was not present.

Miranda Custody Determinations

Before the special statutory protections of section 19-2-511(1) and Miranda safeguards can apply, a court must make the predicate determination of whether the juvenile was in custody and being interrogated. 

The objective test for establishing custody is whether a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would consider himself significantly deprived of his liberty.  

The reasonable person standard is “superior to a subjective test because it is not ‘solely dependent either on the self-serving declarations of the police officers or the defendant.’?” 

In deciding whether a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would believe himself to be deprived of his freedom of action, a court must consider the totality of the circumstances under which an interrogation was conducted. 

Factors a court should evaluate include:

…the time, place and purpose of the encounter;

…the persons present during the interrogation;

…the words spoken by the officer to the defendant;

…the officer’s tone of voice and general demeanor;

…the length and mood of the interrogation;

…whether any limitation of movement or other form of restraint was placed on the defendant during the interrogation;

…the officer’s response to any questions asked by the defendant;

…whether directions were given to the defendant during the interrogation;

and

…the defendant’s verbal or nonverbal response to such directions.

Additionally, a court may consider other factors when weighing the totality of the circumstances in cases involving juveniles.   The age of the juvenile is a factor to be considered by the court, though it will not constitute the determinative factor in a finding of custody. 

Also, a court may consider whether the parents were present or had knowledge of the interrogation. 


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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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