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Juveniles Entitled to Lawyer Before Interrogation

hammer-719066_960_720-300x225On October 1 a host of new laws took effect in Maryland, though most of these laws do not modify existing criminal laws or procedure.  There are however two laws that will impact on our state’s criminal justice system.  The first new law prohibits a spouse from invoking the marital privilege in a domestic violence case such as second-degree assault if the marriage took place after the alleged incident.  While there may have been a few cases showing up from time to time where a defendant and a victim married in advance of a criminal case, this new law will not likely impact a large number of cases.  A victim who is willing to marry for the sole purpose of invoking the privilege is likely to not be cooperative with the state, and with good representation those cases will typically resolve favorably to the defendant.

There is one new law however that will certainly have a major impact on the criminal justice system.  This law was met with a great deal of resistance and even survived a veto by the Governor.  The law is titled the Youth Interrogation Act, and as of this month effectively prohibits Maryland police officers from interrogating juvenile suspects until the child has consulted with an attorney and the police have made reasonable efforts to contact the parents of the juvenile.  The attorney can be retained by the parents of the detained juvenile or provided by the state, and the consultation must be confidential and conducted in accordance with the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct.  This requirement cannot be waived by the parents but it appears that a properly advised juvenile can still elect to speak without the presence of a lawyer.  In order for a statement to be deemed admissible the State must prove by clear and convincing evidence that it was made knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily because there is a rebuttable presumption that the statements are inadmissible.  For the purposes of this law, it does not matter whether the detained minor is being charged as an adult or a juvenile, which means all detained minors under the age of 18 may not be interrogated without first being provided the opportunity to speak with a lawyer.  The interrogations must be recorded as long as it is practicable, and the juvenile must be informed of the recording.

There is one major exception to this law, which was included after the bill was met with a great deal of resistance from police and State’s Attorney lobbyists.  Law enforcement may conduct an interrogation of a detained juvenile without the presence of counsel if the law enforcement officer reasonably believes that the information sought is necessary to protect against a threat to public safety, and the questions posed to the child by law enforcement are limited to those questions reasonably necessary to obtain the information necessary to protect against the threat of public safety.  Obviously, any questioning elicited without the presence of a lawyer would come under intense scrutiny from the defense, and any inculpatory statements would likely be suppressed if the police deviated from the permissible line of questioning.

The Youth Interrogation Act will drastically limit law enforcement’s ability to solve criminal cases involving juveniles, but will also reduce the number of juveniles falsely accused of crimes.  While the vast majority of juvenile defendants tend to cooperate and speak to law enforcement officers upon being detained, much of this information turns out to be false or misleading.  Juvenile defendants often believe they can talk their way out of being charged with a crime, and police are thus routinely led down a rabbit hole of false information including blaming other innocent juveniles.  It may be true that police will end up solving fewer crimes or that they may have to work a little harder to obtain evidence, but this new law will unequivocally keep innocent minors out of jail.

The Blog will continue to follow the Youth Interrogation Act, and may post a follow up article in the future.  If your child has been charged or is being investigated by law enforcement contact Maryland juvenile lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin specializes in representing juvenile defendants in cases involving assault, robbery, firearm possession, theft and drug distribution.  He has successfully argued for the dismissal and reverse waiver transfer of numerous cases in all Maryland jurisdictions and is available for a free consultation 7 days a week at 410-207-2598.  Benjamin also handles intake hearings and represents juveniles in alcohol related crimes such as DUI and fake ID cases (misrepresentation of age).  Call Benjamin today to find out which defenses may be available in your child’s case.


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