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Reducing Risks: An Executive's Guide to Effective Juvenile Interview and Interrogation

NCJ Number
Steven Drizin; James Nawoichyk; Laura Nirider; Joshua Tepfer
Date Published
September 2012
44 pages
After presenting the rationale for having police interrogators specially trained in interviewing juvenile suspects and witnesses, this publication presents recommended best practices in juvenile interrogations and investigative follow-up.
An overview is provided of the issues, latest research, and legal developments related to questioning juveniles. This is followed by descriptions of best practices that reflect these recent developments, with the intent that these practices will produce statements from juveniles that are voluntary and reliable. In emphasizing the need for distinctive interrogation practices with juveniles compared to adults, the publication cites research that shows significant changes in the structure and function of the brain during adolescence, particularly in the pre-frontal cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for judgment, problem solving, and decisionmaking. It regulates impulsive behavior by acting as a brake on the parts of the brain that are activated by fear and stress. In reflecting this research, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in J.D.B. v. North Carolina recently reasserted that adolescents under 18 years old must be treated differently than adults during questioning. This decision has reformed the legal parameters for the interrogation of juveniles, such that police officers are required to change how juvenile suspects are questioned. In order to guide this change, the following topics are discussed regarding interrogation practices with juveniles: child-sensitive behavioral analysis; care with Miranda warnings; the presence of a friendly adult; the length and time of questioning; avoiding deception, promises of leniency, and threats of harm; questioning style; and electronic recording. An overview of relevant legal cases focuses on the topics of juveniles and Miranda rights, police coercion and voluntariness of juveniles' statements, unreliable confessions, and differences between juveniles and adults. Relevant sample documents are provided.