"Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements."
~ Napoleon Hill

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

"You Have the Right to Remain Silent ..."

A quick follow-up from this 2009 post regarding challenged youth and the criminal justice system.

The 2009 case involved a Nova Scotia youth with a learning who disability, who made a statement to
police after having purportedly "waived" his right to (among other things) not make such a statement, consult a lawyer and have a lawyer or other adult (usually a parent) present if he made a statement. Although the boy’s mother had told the police of his learning disability,  the officer read the youth his rights in a rapid monotone, not making eye contact, asking only if the boy understood – to which he answered "yes" – but without attempting to gauge the level of that understanding. 

The officer’s rapid pace in navigating the waiver form, monotone voice and lack of eye contact or effort to establish the youth's level of understanding; along with the lack of any real evidence that the youth actually understood his rights left the court unsure whether the youth really understood the importance of the questions and the answers he was giving.

The Supreme Court of Canada held that police must not only advise a young person of their legal rights, but ascertain that he or she actually understands those rights and make an effort to become aware of complicating factors (such as a learning disability or any previous experiences with the criminal justice system).

The police must make an individualized inquiry, so that they can explain the person's rights in a language and at a level that the youth will be able to understand.
"An individualized, objective approach must take into account the level of sophistication of the young detainee and other personal characteristics relevant to the young person’s understanding. Police officers, in determining the appropriate language to use in explaining a young person’s rights, must therefore make a reasonable effort to become aware of significant factors of this sort, such as learning disabilities and previous experience with the criminal justice system.
As a result of this decision, Canadian police have had to work harder to ensure that the youth they deal with actually understand their rights and what it means to give up such rights.  They are required to ask questions about the youth's individual circumstances and tailor their speaking so as to meet that youth's level of understanding if they hope to have any statement made by the youth admitted as evidence in court.

There is much more of interest in this case, so you might want to review that 2009 post in more detail. However, for our purposes today, I found it interesting that school police in Baltimore have now been asked to adopt a "youth-friendly" Miranda warning.
The Baltimore Sun reports the Baltimore school board is currently accepting feedback on new school police policies under consideration before a vote next month.

Juvenile public defender Jenny Egan asked the school board to formulate a Miranda warning that includes developmentally appropriate language. Egan says the typical recitation heard in many a television procedural features clunky language that's difficult for children to understand. Juvenile public defender Neeta Pal read commissioners a "youth-friendly" warning adopted in Seattle's King County that simplifies the language.
[Emphasis added]
If such a move is necessary for typically developing youth, how much more important is it for our youth?