Reasoning Your Way out of Miranda Rights: How Juvenile Detainees Relinquish Their Fifth Amendment Protections

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Abstract

Each year, thousands of juveniles in custody waive their Miranda rights and promptly provide self-incriminations without the benefit of counsel. Defense attorneys and other members of the court often remain simply unaware of how many of these pivotal waiver decisions are effectuated. This translational article seeks to illuminate for lawyers and the general public how legally involved juveniles may provide potentially invalid Miranda waivers because of false beliefs plus an inability to intelligently weigh their options while considering the concomitant consequences. An extensive reanalysis of Miranda reasoning was performed for 245 legally involved juveniles using a mock crime scenario. In explaining their Miranda waiver decisions, these juveniles often considered both favorable and unfavorable outcomes associated with their decisions. For instance, many believed that exercising their right to remain silent would signal their guilt to the investigating officers. As a critically important finding, juveniles who focused primarily on short-term reasons (e.g., pleasing persons in authority) were more than 12 times more likely to waive their rights and subsequently confess than those exhibiting more balanced reasoning. These findings are discussed within the context of juvenile criminal justice and the increasingly proactive role of defense attorneys in ensuring that juvenile Miranda waivers represent knowing and intelligent waivers.

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