CSAO: Children's Committee - March 6, 2018




March 6, 2018

The Division of Criminal Justice opposes H.B. No. 5328, An Act Concerning the Admissibility of Admissions, Confessions and Statements by Children Under the Age of 18, and respectfully recommends the Committee take NO ACTION on this bill. This bill would place unnecessary burden on both parents and the police with regard to their dealings with 16- and 17-year-old youths by placing new and unnecessary restrictions on the ability of the police to question such youths.

The existing law provides sufficient protections for the 16- or 17-year-old who is the subject of potential questioning by the police. Under CGS §46b-137(b), a 16- or 17-year-old can waive the presence of a parent when being interviewed by the police or a juvenile court official. However, before accepting such a waiver, the statute requires:

(1) the police or Juvenile Court official has made reasonable efforts to contact a parent or guardian of the child, and

(2) that such child has been advised that: (A) the child has the right to contact a parent or guardian and to have a parent or guardian present during any interview; (B) the child has the right to retain counsel or, if unable to afford counsel, to have counsel appointed on behalf of the child; (C) the child has the right to refuse to make any statement, and (D) any statement the child makes may be introduced into evidence against the child.

The law also provides sufficient opportunities to contest and move to suppress statements that are allegedly coerced or otherwise obtained illegally. CGS §46b-137(c) also provides that the admissibility of any admission, confession or statement, written or oral, made by a 16- or 17-year-old to a police officer or Juvenile Court official “… shall be determined by considering the totality of the circumstances at the time of the making of such admission, confession or statement. When determining the admissibility of such admission, confession or statement, the court shall consider:

(1) the age, experience, education, background and intelligence of the child,

(2) the capacity of the child to understand the advice concerning rights and warnings required under subdivision (2) of subsection (b) of this section, the nature of the privilege against self-incrimination and the consequences of waiving such rights and privilege,

(3) the opportunity the child had to speak with a parent, guardian or some other suitable individual prior to or while making such admission, confession or statement, and

(4) the circumstances surrounding the making of the admission, confession or statement, including, but not limited to: (A) when and where the admission, confession or statement was made; (B) the reasonableness of proceeding, or the need to proceed, without a parent or guardian present, and (C) the reasonableness of efforts by the police or Juvenile Court official to attempt to contact a parent or guardian.

These statutes already assure there is adequate protection of the youth’s rights through intensive review by the court of all of the circumstances surrounding the advisement and the interview. The police are trained not to accept such a waiver unless they are satisfied that they can convince a judge that they advised the youth of his or her rights in such a manner that it was reasonable to believe that the youth knew and understood those rights and the consequences of waiving those rights.

A 16- or 17-year-old is not the same as a younger child. Yes, the brain of a 16- or 17-year-old may not be fully developed, but it is more developed than the brain of a child under age 16 to whom the current protections applicable to police questioning apply. The difference between a child under age 16 and a youth age16 or older is evidenced by the fact that a 16-year-old can be legally employed in Connecticut and can legally operate a motor vehicle in this state. Neither privilege is available to the child under age 16.

From a practical standpoint, to require that a parent be present for the police to conduct even a simple interview of a 16- or 17-year-old would put an unnecessary burden on the police and on the parent since 16- and 17-year-olds can drive and thus are more mobile and likely to be questioned away from their hometown than a child under the age of 16.

For these reasons, the Division of Criminal Justice believes H.B. No. 5328 is not necessary and would respectfully recommend the Committee take NO ACTION on this bill. We thank the Committee for affording this opportunity to provide input on this matter and would be happy to provide any additional information the Committee might require or to answer any questions that you might have.

Content Last Modified on 3/6/2018 11:38:41 AM