New Jersey Criminal Lawyer – Appellate Opinions – Part II. Miranda Issues

Part II. Miranda Issues

State in the Interest of A.S., 203 N.J. 131 (2010)

In light of those facts, all of which suggest that a clear and easy-to-understand explanation would be necessary to meaningfully inform A.S. of her constitutional rights, the actual efforts employed to inform her of those rights were woefully inadequate. Indeed, the detective abdicated his responsibility in that regard by having F.D. read A.S. her rights, a procedure which tainted the interview from its outset and must not be utilized in the future. It is a police officer’s responsibility to read and to make sure that the juvenile understands his or her constitutional rights before proceeding with an interrogation. That requirement comports with the special care that must be taken with respect to the child’s constitutional rights. The parent is not present to assume the role and responsibility of the police, but rather to act as a “buffer” and “to assist juveniles in understanding their rights, acting intelligently in waiving those rights, and otherwise remaining calm in the face of an interrogation.”

We are hesitant to assume that any human being, even an experienced, thoughtful, and able Family Part judge-as the judge below undoubtedly was and is-can partition evidence and compartmentalize his or her decision-making so neatly, particularly when the evidence in issue is of such magnitude, the means by which the evidence was procured was so disturbing, and the judge has already rendered a determination on the ultimate question.

We do not believe that a broad representation requirement that would require the presence of an attorney in every such case is warranted. As we have discussed throughout this opinion, the presence of a parent is a “highly significant factor” in the totality of the circumstances analysis contemplated by Presha and, generally, that reassuring presence will assist the juvenile in the exercise of his or her rights. We decline to embrace a categorical rule that an attorney must be present any time that there is perceived clash in the interests of a parent based on a familial relationship with the victim or another involved in the investigation. Even in cases of such apparent clashing interests, a parent may be able to fulfill the role envisioned in Presha. And, in those cases where a parent is truly conflicted, another adult-not necessarily an attorney-may be able to fulfill the parental assistance role envisioned by Presha. Moreover, when it is apparent to interrogating officers that a parent has competing and clashing interests in the subject of the interrogation, the police minimally should take steps to ensure that the parent is not allowed to assume the role of interrogator and, further, should strongly consider ceasing the interview when another adult, who is without a conflict of interest, can be made available to the child.

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