Chicago police have recently come under scrutiny for their handling of some juveniles during the holding and questioning period while in police custody. In an effort to combat this criticism, Illinois legislators have proposed a bill that would provide juveniles more protections and ensure they understand the full extent of their rights when in custody.
This bill is labeled as SB2370, and Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, 5th District, who sponsored the bill, said its aim is to protect children who can get caught up in a sometimes unrelenting justice system.
“So many kids have confessed to things that are not true,” said Van Pelt. “You can get a child to say anything.”
According to the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force, police aren’t doing much to ensure that juveniles understand and express their right to an attorney. The Task Force stated that a recent review found that visitor request forms (filled out by an attorney when they visit their new client while under police custody) were filled out in less than 1 percent of all Chicago arrests in 2015. For minors, the Chicago Defender found even worse numbers; less than one-tenth of 1 percent of juveniles had an attorney.
“CPD has not made the legal rights of juveniles a priority,” the task force wrote in their report. “We have heard that police frequently tell lawyers working on behalf of juveniles that their clients do not have a right to counsel or that the juvenile’s guardian must approve a visit by a lawyer. Youth should be receiving more, not less, protection.”
New Juvenile Protections
New provisions in the proposed bill would:
- Raise the age at which an attorney must be present during questioning in murder or sexual offense cases from 13 to 15. This would only apply to roughly 100 cases a year, but considering the severity of the charges, it makes sense.
- Require police to read a shorter and simplified version of the Miranda rights to all juveniles under the age of 18. After reading, the officer must directly ask the juvenile, “Do you want to have a lawyer?” and “Do you want to talk to me.”
- Require police to videotape all interrogations of youth under the age of 18 in any felony or misdemeanor sexual offense cases. A confession would not be admissible in court unless it was recorded on videotape.
Benjamin Chambers, who serves on the National Juvenile Justice Network, said recording the interrogation is crucial for determining if the child was coerced into giving a statement.
“There’s no question that having an attorney present is crucial to defending a kids’ rights, and that doesn’t happen enough. But the recording of the entire interrogation is a way to look back and judge whether the kid was pressured or not,” said Chambers. “It’s an affordable step forward, a sensible and practical way for law enforcement to, frankly, show that they’re doing the right thing.”
The bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in the near future.