Anyone who has ever had to speak with a police officer concerning possible crimes knows just how stressful the situation can be. For children the process can be even more overwhelming, especially if they do not have someone who can advocate for their rights with them during questioning. A new Washington state law will limit the capacity in which police questioning can be conducted with minors.
Minimizing police reach
Starting in Jan. 2022, minors will be required to consult with an attorney before police can conduct any questioning. Opponents of the new law say it will make it harder for police to do their jobs because minors might be advised to not speak with authorities. However, advocates say that this law will actually protect vulnerable youth who are not familiar with their rights. Youth under the age of 18 are:
- Susceptible to undue influence from police
- More easily coerced into confessing to committing crimes in which they had no involvement
- Less likely to understand their Miranda rights
Minority youth are particularly vulnerable. These boys and girls are more likely to agree with authority figures even when it goes against their self interests. This is easily seen when one considers that minority youth only make up 28% of Washington’s population, but account for 50% of detained youth.
Answers given during police questioning are often used by the prosecution. Teens may not fully grasp the impact of their statements given during this process and may unintentionally say something that has a long-term effect on their futures. While this law has yet to go into effect, parents can still be strong advocates for their children by securing knowledgeable guidance prior to any police questioning that may go on.