Have you ever wondered when the police or even CPS can interrogate a minor in Texas? Let’s face it. Kids don’t always make the best choices and, sometimes, they get caught up in bad situations. Maybe they witnessed a crime or are suspected of committing one themselves. So what happens when police want to talk to a minor regarding a crime or criminal investigation? In this blog post, we are going to discuss juvenile rights and what happens (or should happen) when police question a child or take them into custody.
First, let’s start with the basics. In Texas, a juvenile is defined as a person who is at least 10 years old but not yet 17. Youth between these ages are handled by the juvenile justice system, and there are very specific rules and rights when it comes to interrogations and arrests.
Most people believe police can’t question a child without the consent of his or her parents. This is a misconception. In Texas, police officers are allowed to question a child without parental consent or prior permission as long as the questioning is done in a non-custodial setting. In other words, as long as the child is not in handcuffs, detained, or in custody, police can approach them and question them without parental knowledge.
So, for example, if a police officer shows up outside the youth’s school and wants to talk – and the child willingly answers the officer’s questions – the parents may not even find out about it if their child doesn’t tell them. That’s a scary thought for most parents.
In fact, most conversations with the police take place at school with absolutely no notice to the parents.
It’s also important to note that, in this type of setting, police also do not have to give the juvenile their Miranda warnings.
Employees of the Department of Family and Protective Services – often referred to as “CPS” – are routinely given access to students. And yes, they can and will question or interrogate students without a parent’s knowledge.
Yes – and they should. If a youth is approached by a police officer who wants to talk, the child should tell the officer that they want a parent or a lawyer (or both) and then remain silent. At that point, the officer must stop asking questions and allow the child to contact a parent or guardian.
Unfortunately, most children don’t know their rights or are too scared to assert them. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important for parents to educate their kids on what to do if they’re ever approached by police.
It’s important for your child to be polite and respectful at all times. However, a child should also be firm when asserting their rights. For example, your child can say something like:
Let’s say a police officer calls you and asks to speak to your child. You can politely decline and assert your child’s right to an attorney. Realistically you can’t prevent them from showing up at school. What you can do is hire an attorney for your child – generally one who is not representing you – and have the attorney make contact with the police department or CPS and say the child is represented and any questions must come through the attorney.
When a child is taken into custody, the rules change. In this situation, police are required to “promptly give notice” to the juvenile’s parent or guardian and to tell them why the child has been taken into custody.
The child must be taken to a juvenile processing office – often a room in a police station or sheriff’s office specifically used for temporary juvenile detention. Once here, a parent, guardian, or attorney is allowed, by law, to speak privately with the juvenile for a reasonable period of time. During this interaction, they can advise the child not to voluntarily speak with the officer.
The law does not require a parent, guardian, or attorney to be present when police interrogate a minor in custody. However, if a parent asks to be present, it is in the best interest of the officer to allow it – or expect an aggressive courtroom challenge.
If the police want to question your child about a criminal matter in Fort Worth or the surrounding area, it’s imperative to contact an experienced juvenile defense attorney right away. It is never a good idea to speak to the police without first consulting with an adept juvenile attorney – regardless of the child’s involvement in the situation.
Juvenile law is a highly-specialized area that requires very specific knowledge and expertise. Varghese Summersett is one of the few law firms in North Texas with a Board Certified Juvenile lawyer on its team. Attorney Lisa Herrick has vast experience handling juvenile cases and will protect your child’s rights every step of the way. Call 817-203-2220 today for a free consultation.