Cops and kids in the interrogation room

Barry C. Feld

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


The Supreme Court repeatedly has cautioned that youthfulness and immaturity can impair juveniles' ability to exercise Miranda rights or to make voluntary statements. However, it endorsed the adult waiver standard-knowing, intelligent, and voluntary-to gauge juveniles' Miranda waivers. Developmental psychologists question whether young people understand or possess the competence necessary to exercise Miranda rights. Police interrogation training and practices do not distinguish between questioning juveniles and adults, and recommend that police use the same tactics to question both. This chapter analyzes quantitative and qualitative data of recorded interrogations of three hundred and seven (307) 16- and 17-year-old youths charged with felony offenses. It examines when and where interrogations take place, who conducts them, and how juveniles respond. It reports how police secure Miranda waivers, the maximization and minimization tactics they use to elicit information, how juveniles respond, and the evidence youths provide. It reports that the vast majority of juveniles (92.3?%) waived their Miranda rights and the majority (58.6?%) confessed very quickly. The findings bear on three policy issues-procedural safeguards for youths, time limits, and mandatory recording of those interrogations. It corroborates developmental psychologists' research that older juveniles appear to understand Miranda similarly to adults. It inferentially bolsters their research that younger juveniles lack competence to exercise the rights-a finding reflected in their propensity to confess falsely-and require the assistance of counsel. Police concluded ninety percent of these felony interrogations in less than 30 minutes. By contrast, interrogations that elicit false confessions typically take 6 hours or longer wear-down an innocent person's resistance. Finally, mandatory recording creates an objective record and an independent basis to resolve disputes about Miranda warnings, waivers, or statements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInvestigative Interviewing
PublisherSpringer New York
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9781461496427
ISBN (Print)9781461496410
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Confessions
  • Interrogation
  • Juveniles
  • Miranda rights
  • Police
  • Procedural safeguards


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