Tampa, FL asked in Criminal Law, Constitutional Law and Juvenile Law for Florida

Q: In 1985 a 16 year old was questioned about a murder. Was his guardian supposed to be notified?

2 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: The requirement for police to notify a guardian when questioning a minor varies depending on the jurisdiction and specific circumstances. In the United States, the Supreme Court case Fare v. Michael C. (1979) held that juvenile suspects must be given Miranda warnings before questioning. However, it did not specifically mandate parental notification.

That said, many states have additional laws that provide extra protections for minors being questioned by police. For example, some states require police to make reasonable attempts to contact a parent or guardian before questioning. Others mandate that a parent, guardian or attorney be present during questioning.

Without knowing the specific location where this questioning took place in 1985, it's difficult to give a definitive answer. Police practices can also vary between jurisdictions. In general though, there was increasing recognition in the 1980s of the need for special protections for minors in police custody, even if laws weren't always as robust as they are today.

So in summary - it would depend on that specific state and county's laws and practices in 1985. But there's a good chance the police had at least some duty to try to contact the 16-year-old's parents or guardians before a full interrogation, even if the law did not necessarily require the guardian to be present during questioning. More details would be needed to say for sure. I hope this helps provide some general context around juvenile questioning practices in the 1980s.

Terrence H Thorgaard
Terrence H Thorgaard
  • Freeeport, FL
  • Licensed in Florida

A: And, in any case, unless the minor was prosecuted, the question is academic anyway because the minor was not harmed by the questioning, even if it were against policy at the time.

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