Custodial Interrogation of Juveniles - NEW Bill Makes Landmark Changes!

On October 11, 2017, Governor Jerry Brown approved SB-395.[1] SB-395 significantly changes the procedure for custodial interrogations of juveniles 15 years of age or younger (with some exceptions). With the passage of SB-395, Welfare and Institutions Code section 625.6 has now been amended to require the following:

(a) Prior to a custodial interrogation, and before the waiver of any Miranda rights, a youth 15 years of age or younger shall consult with legal counsel in person, by telephone, or by video conference. The consultation may not be waived.

The amendments made by SB-395 now require the court to consider the

failure of law enforcement to comply with the requirement above in determining the admissibility of any statements potentially made by the juvenile.

SB-395 evidences a clear recognition by the Legislature, law enforcement and science that children and adolescents are much more vulnerable to psychologically coercive interrogations and in other dealings with law enforcement. This Bill follows a line of court cases that have recognized that the process of cognitive brain development continues into adulthood and contributes to the lower maturity and responsibility of juveniles over their adult counterpart.[2]

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[2]See Legislative finding in Section 1 of Senate Bill No. 395:

(a) Developmental and neurological science concludes that the process of cognitive brain development continues into adulthood, and that the human brain undergoes “dynamic changes throughout adolescence and well into young adulthood” (see Richard J. Bonnie, et al., Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach, National Research Council (2013), page 96, and Chapter 4). As recognized by the United States Supreme Court, children “‘generally are less mature and responsible than adults’” (J.D.B. v. North Carolina (2011) 131 S.Ct. 2394, 2397, quoting Eddings v. Oklahoma (1982) 455 U.S. 104, 115); “they ‘often lack the experience, perspective, and judgment to recognize and avoid choices that could be detrimental to them’” (J.D.B., 131 S.Ct. at 2397, quoting Bellotti v. Baird (1979) 443 U.S. 622, 635); “they ‘are more vulnerable or susceptible to… outside pressures’ than adults” (J.D.B., 131 S.Ct. at 2397, quoting Roper v. Simmons (2005) 543 U.S. 551, 569); they “have limited understandings of the criminal justice system and the roles of the institutional actors within it” (Graham v. Florida (2010) 560 U.S. 48, 78); and “children characteristically lack the capacity to exercise mature judgment and possess only an incomplete ability to understand the world around them” (J.D.B., 131 S.Ct. at 2397).

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