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Police Interrogation of Juveniles: An Empirical Study of Policy and Practice

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology Volume: 97 Issue: 1 Dated: Fall 2006 Pages: 219-316
Barry C. Feld
Date Published
98 pages
This study empirically analyzed the tactics and techniques police used to interrogate juveniles and how juveniles responded to them.
The analysis indicated that once the juveniles waived their Miranda rights, police used the same strategies and tactics to interrogate them as they used with adults. Indeed, the officers in this study seemed to use a standard script and the same techniques, identified as the Reid Method. The Reid Method employs the use of emotionally-charged questions to provoke reactions from suspects. The juveniles cooperated or resisted and provided incriminating evidence at about the same rate as adults. Other findings revealed that most interrogations were short in length, a single officer conducted the interrogations in most cases, and that police used a two-pronged strategy to overcome suspects’ resistance--maximization and minimization techniques. Data were drawn from the case files, including tapes and transcripts of interrogations, of 67 juveniles who were 16 or 17 years of age and who were charged with a felony level offense. The case files were obtained from the Ramsey County (Minnesota) Attorney’s Office and included police reports, witness statements, property inventories, an account of the circumstances surrounding the offense, and the evidence police possessed when they questioned the suspect. Case files were coded according to whether juveniles invoked or waived Miranda rights, how the officers conducted the interrogation, and how the juvenile responded. The analysis focused on the 53 juveniles who waived their Miranda rights. Very little is known about how police actually interrogate suspects because of the historical reluctance of police to allow unrestricted access to researchers, due in part to confidentiality issues. Future research should continue to probe the police interrogation of both juveniles and adults, particularly in terms of the effects of recording interrogations, the length of interrogations, and the use of false evidence. Footnotes