Los Angeles Juvenile Defense Attorney

Archive for the ‘Police Questioning’ Category

Should My Child Talk To The Police?

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

If your child is being investigated for a crime in Los Angeles or anywhere in Californiahe or she should not speak with the police until you contact a qualified  juvenile defense attorney.

Here are some common situations in which your child may be questioned by police and the applicable rules.

IF YOUR CHILD HAS BEEN ARRESTED IN CALIFORNIA

Within one hour of being arrested, your child has the right to make two phone calls:  One call to a parent, guardian, employer or other responsible adult and one call to an attorney.  If you receive this call from your child, no matter how angry you may be, advise your child to not make any statements to the police.

If your child is arrested or otherwise in custody, the police must advise your child of his/her Miranda rights (right to remain silent, warning that all statements will be used against your child, right to an attorney).  However, the police are not required to advise your child of their right to have a parent present during questioning.  Your child should ask police that a parent be present during questioning.  Also, a child asking for a parent is not an invocation of Miranda rights.  Your child must specifically say that he or she is not going to answer questions or wants an attorney present.

UNDER CALIFORNIA LAW, POLICE MAY NOT BE REQUIRED TO INFORM THE CHILD OF A RIGHT TO HAVING A PARENT PRESENT DURING QUESTIONING

What happens if a child has not requested the presence of a parent for questioning, but a parent is available and wants to be there?  Under California law, the police may not be required to inform the child of a parent’s availability unless the child has requested the presence of a parent.

In other words, if a child does not ask for his mom to be present at questioning but mom wants to be there.  Depending on the circumstances, the police may not be required to tell the child that you are available.

If, as a parent, you find yourself in this situation, it is important to contact a qualified juvenile attorney immediately. You also need to write down the names of the police officers you’ve spoken to, the times you spoke to them and a summary of the conversation.

STATEMENTS TO A PROBATION OFFICER

If your child is to be detained at juvenile hall, he or she will be interviewed by a probation officer. The probation officer is also required to advise your child of his or her Miranda rights.  While statements made to a probation officer cannot be used against your child to prove guilt, they can be used against him or her in other ways that may negatively impact his case. Your child should not discuss the facts of his or her case with a probation officer until first consulting with a qualified juvenile defense attorney.
POLICE TACTICS IN INTERROGATING A MINOR

The police are allowed to deceive a child when questioning him or her.  They are allowed to imply that there will be some benefit to a child confessing to a crime by telling him or her to “help yourself” by confessing or that it’s “your last chance to tell us your side of the story.”  The police are also allowed to tell a child that “the victim has already identified you” as the perpetrator of the crime or that “your friends already told us you did it.”

The police can also tell you “that they’ll talk to the prosecutor to give your case special attention because you told the truth.”  DO NOT FALL FOR ANY OF THESE TRICKS. Once again, your child should not make any statements to the police without first consulting a qualified juvenile defense attorney.

IF YOUR CHILD HAS NOT BEEN ARRESTED

If your child has not been arrested, the police are allowed to question your child without reading the Miranda warning. If your child has not been arrested, your child has no right to have a parent present at questioning.

If your child has not been arrested, the police may pull your child out of class at school to talk to him or stop him on the street.  The police may be very friendly and tell your child that they “just want to hear your side of the story.”  Once again, your child should NOT talk to the police.  Your child should ask if he is free to leave, and if the police officer says “yes” then your child should politely excuse himself and immediately contact a parent or an attorney.  Remember anything your child says CAN and WILL be used against him or her, even if they are not under arrest or read their Miranda warnings.

This is why it is important that your child not discuss criminal activity with ANYONE until after speaking with an attorney. This means no statements about criminal activity to school teachers, no statements to school administrators, no statements to friends, no statements to ANYONE until after speaking with an attorney.

One 20-Minute Hearing—Two Consecutive 30 Year Prison Sentences

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

If a child is accused of murdering two adults, what is a reasonable amount of time to determine whether they should be treated as an adult?

I am a criminal defense lawyer representing juveniles in Los Angeles, so you may think this is a trick question.  It isn’t.

A recent feature article in the Sunday New York Times describes the legal saga of Greg Ousley, from Indiana, who killed his parents when he was 14 years old.

With 24 hours of the killings, Greg “confessed” to the police.  Greg certainly admitted to pulling the trigger, but that doesn’t mean that his confession was legally valid.  There is reason to believe it may not have been.  Indiana law at the time didn’t permit juveniles to waive their Miranda rights-without parental approval.  So what do you do in a case where the parents aren’t alive?  The police were aware of the law, but simply ignored it.  They continued to interrogate Greg.

Greg doesn’t deny that he shot both of his parents with a shotgun. It’s also undeniable that the killings weren’t spontaneous.  There is evidence in the form of diary entries that strongly suggest that he planned the killings over a number of days.  There’s also no denying that this is a shocking crime and it’s difficult to get one’s head around it.

But let’s return to the questions with which I started this entry.  Shocking as this crime is, how much time should we devote to figuring out whether Greg Ousley should have been tried as an adult?  Reasonable people can disagree about the answer to this question, but I hope we can agree that this issue deserves more time than Greg received—one 20-minute hearing in court.

That’s right; two days after “confessing,” and less than three days since the crime was committed, thanks to his court-appointed lawyer, Greg got a single lousy 20-minute hearing.

Two days later, Greg was taken into court for a hearing on whether his case should be routed into the adult legal system. His court-appointed lawyer might have asked for a preliminary psychiatric examination, a procedure that would have at least slowed the process down, but he declined to do so. He might have also asserted that the presence of premeditation — the prosecutor’s chief argument for taking it to adult court — was a particularly poor standard in the context of juvenile parricide; given the physical and psychological power imbalance inherent in child-parent relationships, a not uncommon feature to such murders is premeditation. He declined to do that as well. And so in a single 20-minute hearing held less than 72 hours after the murders, it was decided that the 14-year-old would stand as an adult.

Greg accepted a plea of guilty but mentally ill.  At his sentencing hearing, three psychological examiners hired by defense counsel argued that Greg shouldn’t just be sent to jail; he should receive treatment.  The prosecutor argued that an example should be made of Greg.  The prosecutor won.  And Greg was sentenced to two consecutive 30 year prison sentences. That was 19 years ago.

Today, Greg Ousley is a poster child for how juveniles can turn their lives around, even in jail.  He is by all accounts a model prisoner.  Some of his biggest supporters are the hard-to-impress officials who work for the prison system.  He completed online courses and graduated from college with honors.  He is a good example of why the United States Supreme Court was correct to strike down laws that sentence juveniles to life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Greg’s case raises many difficult and confounding issues.  That’s why his story has received so much attention.  But as a juvenile defense lawyer, I can’t help but focus on those crucial moments in the days following his arrest.  Whatever you think of Greg Ousely and whether he should be released from prison now, it’s clear that a more engaged and aggressive criminal juvenile criminal defense lawyer would likely have made a big difference.