A MUST-READ for WA Parents: Youth Access to Counsel During Police Investigations
Police interrogations can be intimidating, coercive, and manipulative for adults. When it comes to police interrogations of children, those problems magnify to an even greater degree. Thankfully, Washington State has not only recognized this problem, but they have passed a new law to further protect juveniles from this police tactic.
RCW 13.40.740 went into effect this past January. This new statute requires that police officers provide an attorney to any person under the age of 18 years old if the officers:
- question a juvenile during a custodial interrogation;
- detain a juvenile based on probable cause of involvement in criminal activity; or
- request that the juvenile provides consent to an evidentiary search of the juvenile or the juvenile's property, dwellings, or vehicles under the juvenile's control.
This amounts to major protection for juveniles in the State. While traditional requirements of Miranda Rights or waivers allow anyone to request contact with or waive their right to an attorney, the new law requires the police to affirmatively put the youth in contact with an attorney, or essentially cease any questioning of that youth. Notably, this right CAN NOT be waived by the youth: it is an affirmative duty placed upon the officer, and a valid waiver of that right cannot be obtained from the youth without putting them in contact with an attorney.
Parents in Washington State need to be aware of this right, and should make sure their kids are aware as well! If police approach them and try to ask them any questions or investigate them for almost any reason, they should be given an attorney immediately. If they are pulled over for speeding or having a taillight out and the officers ask to look around the car, they must be provided an attorney beforehand. If they get pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving late at night, then they must be provided an attorney at the point that the officer develops probable cause and detains them, without any further questions or searches.
Finally, always remember that no matter your age, the only thing you should ever say to an officer investigating you for a crime is, "I've done nothing wrong; I've got nothing to hide; and I want my lawyer!