This bill specifies the rights of children before and during questioning while in the custody of law enforcement or are otherwise held by law enforcement, the courts, or the Department of Youth Services. It also mandates the recording of children’s interrogations and adds additional language to preserve counsel for children, particularly in cases when sexually violent or deadly crimes are alleged. Specifically, HB 50 strengthens existing law to protect children who are interrogated by:
- Mandating that children be told their rights in language they can understand;
- Outlining what rights children must be told;
- Specifying procedures that must be followed for confessions to be admissible in court;
- Ensuring that children have the benefit of a parent, guardian, or attorney throughout the process, and;
- Mandating an attorney in the most serious cases.
LCS Legislation Status
Our Take on This Bill
The rights of the accused are a cornerstone of a fair judicial system, and as the Supreme Court has noted, these rights are especially important when young people find themselves in the justice system, where lacking an adult’s capacity to recognize the consequences of their actions endangers their freedom. While HB 50 strengthens existing law to better protect children during questionings, it still could be improved.
The bill should be amended to have children’s statements to school administrators subject to the same procedural safeguards as other admissible statements, because statements children make to school administrators can be used against them in court. Further, the word “charge” should be amended to “alleged criminal act” to ensure children are protected throughout the legal process. Taken together, these changes help to provide children with knowledge and legal guidance when their freedom is at stake, representing an important step toward a better juvenile justice system.