Springfield, Ill – Today marks 50 years since the U.S. Supreme Court made Miranda warnings mandatory, and legal experts say Illinois is taking small but positive steps in bolstering those rights for young people accused of crimes.
The Miranda ruling states every person must be informed of his or her rights when arrested.
But juvenile justice advocates say many times young people waive those rights without really understanding them.
University of Chicago law professor Randolph Stone is praising parts of Senate Bill 2370, which would require a simplified Miranda warning for minors.
“It’s the same thing that we want for our children or any child, that the child be properly educated about the rights that they are getting ready to waive, and we found that in many instances the kids just have no idea what they’re giving up,” he states.
That law is currently sitting on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk awaiting his signature.
Stone and other reform advocates, however, say Illinois could do more to protect juvenile rights by requiring legal counsel for all accused offenders under age 18.
Current Illinois law only requires a defense lawyer for children 13 or younger.
The new bill would extend the legal counsel requirement to children up to age 15 during custodial interrogations. But that would only apply to serious cases, such as murder or sex offenses. Stone argues that having a lawyer present for all juveniles would reinforce the Miranda protections.
“The police in their interrogation techniques often cause kids to waive their rights and then sometimes to even falsely confess to crimes that they didn’t commit,” he points out. “It’s even more important that they have some legal representation at this critical stage.”
According to the Illinois Juvenile Justice Initiative, only about 20 percent of young people understand what their Miranda rights are, and the least understood warning is their right to talk with a lawyer before being questioned by police.