In the US Juvenile Justice System (JJS), the issues of false confessions arise as controversial and problematic due to minors’ false confessions compared to adults’. Multiple research studies and policy-making considerations have been introduced to address the drawbacks in the contemporary JJS that commonly fails to recognize age-specific particularities of adolescent suspects during investigations and interrogations. This critical paper discusses the characteristics of juveniles’ false confessions, their predeterminants, and the proper measures to minimize false convictions among adolescents.
There are constitutional safeguards in the JJS that protect minors from false confessions. They include the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. The Fourth Amendment protects suspects from unlawful search and seizure of evidence, while the Fifth Amendment allows the suspects, not to self-incriminate (Gardner, 2018). However, the statistical data show that “of 873 exonerations, 8% of adults gave false confessions while 43% of juveniles gave false confessions” (TEDx Talks, 2016). These numbers indicate that adolescents are more likely to confess to committing crimes they are not guilty of than adults due to the lack of knowledge of the legal particularities. The implications of these statistics for the legal system relate to the necessity to recognize age differences in response to interrogations in adults and minors, which legal procedures should regulate.
The courts should incorporate this statistical information to construct relevant procedures for investigating juvenile criminal cases and passing sentences. Indeed, research shows that most false confessions were the result of guilty plea deals and not trials (TEDx Talks, 2016). In the case of adolescents, who are commonly interrogated by the police without the presence of parents, guardians, or lawyers, and with their vulnerability as minors, the exposure to adult interrogation strategies is inappropriate. The tactics the police use to interrogate juveniles are the same as those used for adults; however, “adolescents evaluate reward and risk differently than adults do” (TEDx Talks, 2016, 00:08:55-00:09:01). In the USA, it is allowed to lie to suspects during interrogations, which might not be critically perceived by minors who have no developed critical thinking to recognize the risks of law enforcers’ dishonesty. Thus, JJS should differentiate adolescent interrogation strategies to acknowledge their age-specific developmental particularities for unimpaired justice free of false confessions.
Moreover, the specific features of interrogation strategies used by the police during juvenile interrogations should be eliminated from the law enforcement procedures to protect minors from false confessions. A study by Dr. Malloy showed that when accused of committing a crime, 59% of innocent adolescents sign a confession, with only 4% consulting a parent about the issue (TEDx Talks. 2016). These findings show that while minors have the right to ask for an appropriate adult presence, they do not use this right. Therefore, a lawyer or a parent with legal knowledge should be present during the interrogation process as an obligatory measure. It is even more relevant in interrogating adolescents with mental impairments since their judgment and decision-making are unreliable. For that matter, using maximization strategies when the police threaten juvenile suspects during interrogations or pressure them should be forbidden. Similarly, the use of minimization strategies when the police express the desire to help and befriend the suspects or demonstrate authority influence should be discouraged to protect minors from false confessions.
The video does not address the extended constitutional protection influencing the punitive nature of JJS. The lack of this discussion might be justified by the researcher’s focus on the procedural changes capable of averting wrongful convictions of minors due to their proneness to confess falsely. Indeed, confessing is considered a reward because adolescents do not consider long-term outcomes. Therefore, the legal and court-related procedures with suspected juveniles should be conducted according to age-sensitive strategies with a lawyer or parent presence.
Gardner, M. (2018). Understanding juvenile law (5th ed.). Carolina Academic Press.
TEDx Talks. (2016). What leads to juvenile false confessions? | Lindsay Malloy | TEDxFIU [Video]. YouTube. Web.