Safeguards are needed to prevent police abuse of juvenile suspects in criminal cases, argues University of Minnesota law Prof. Barry Feld. He discussed his recent book, Kids, Cops & Confessions: Inside the Interrogation Room (NYU Press 2013), on Friday at the American Society of Criminology annual convention in Atlanta. Feld analyzed 307 recordings and transcripts of police questioning teenagers in Minnesota cases. It was the first empirical study of juvenile interrogations since the Supreme Court’s Miranda ruling in 1966.
In more than 90 percent of cases examined by Feld, juveniles waived Miranda rights and frequently incriminated themselves, leading to confessions and guilty pleas. Feld advocates a maximum time for interrogations, mandatory recording of them, and a limit on tactics that police can use against juveniles, who usually are less mature than adults. Commenting on Feld’s book, Vanderbilt University law Prof. Christopher Slobogin generally agreed with Feld’s critique, noting that suspects who aren’t so talkative to police often are successful in getting charges reduced. Slobogin expressed some doubt about Feld’s idea of limiting juvenile interrogations to six hours, saying that many teens confess in the first few minutes.