Taking Juvenile Statements under the Texas Family Code
Juveniles should not be tagged as criminals, that’s why the Texas’ justice system protects them by implementing rules that ensure juveniles are not mislabeled. To maintain this principle, police officers comply with some special rules when taking statements from juvenile suspects, which will be explained in this article.
Nature of Statements
Juvenile statements can be taken in two ways. One is a result of custodial interrogation and the other is without custodial interrogation. Different rules apply for these two. In viewing statements, the most important concern is the voluntariness since the process of interrogation could be coercive by nature. If not voluntary, statements cannot be used in court. This requirement also applies to juvenile statements. Voluntariness is the only requirement for noncustodial statements. To know if the statement was voluntary, courts look at the circumstances. It evaluates the situation and considers the child’s background, age, education, experience, intelligence and ability to understand their rights. A juvenile statement only becomes admissible in court if it was proven voluntary considering the relevant factors.
Statements from Custodial Interrogation
Juvenile statements taken as a result of custodial interrogation must be voluntarily given. Police officers must also follow the special rules from the Texas Family Code and answer two threshold questions. First is if the juvenile was in custody and second is if he was being interrogated.
The Texas Family Code section 51.095 (d) regards a child to be in custody if he is in a juvenile detention facility, in CPS custody as a suspect for participating in a delinquent conduct or if he is in the custody of a police officer. Juveniles are not in custody if they were told that they are not and are free to leave after the interview.
If a child gives statements in custody, it should be determined if such statement was a result of interrogation. The US Supreme Court says that interrogation includes questioning by a police officer and actions or speech that can reasonably obtain an incriminating response.
Special Rules for Taking Oral Statements during Custodial Interrogation
Under section 51.095(a)(5) of the Texas Family Code, police officers must comply with special rules before taking written statements of a child in custody and interrogated. A juvenile in custody should be taken to a magistrate first before interrogated. The magistrate will tell the child his rights without the presence of the police officer. The statement must also be recorded electronically, with voices identified and device capable of recording accurately. The statement should be unaltered and accurate and before the actual statement, the recording magistrate must also include the magistrate telling the child his warnings. The juvenile must also waive his right on the recording. The magistrate may request to bring the child and the recording back to him so he can review it to ensure that statement was voluntary. Exceptions for complying with these special rules can apply when statements are found to be true and lead to establishing guilt or if they were made before a grand jury or in open court.
Special Rules for Taking Written Statements during Custodial Interrogation
Under section 51.095(a)(1) of the Texas Family Code, special rules must also be followed by police officers when taking written statements from a child in custody and interrogation. The juvenile should also be taken to a magistrate and abide by the same ruling as in taking oral statements. Before the juvenile signs his written statements, he should be taken back in front of the magistrate to review such statements.
When dealing with a juvenile who is in trouble with the law, make sure you always have an attorney by your side to be sure all matters are handled properly. Give us a call at The Locke Law Firm and we can let you know what your options are.