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That young person's confession may not be reliable, part II

Earlier in the week we talked about young people's ability to understand their Miranda rights. We also discussed the proclivity teenagers have for waiving their rights to silence and to have a criminal defense lawyer present during questioning. Although some people may not see a problem in this as it is getting juvenile "delinquents" off the streets, it can be quite problematic when these teenagers confess to things they have never done.

Police interrogations can be incredibly stressful, especially when police officers keep pressing individuals for information or telling them that the interrogation will be the only time that they will get to share their side of the story. With research showing that teenagers, especially younger teenagers, are highly likely to confess, it is disturbing to learn that most police officers do not have any training in adolescent development. Even fewer use different interrogation techniques on minors than those they use on adults.

While there are movements to get police officers trained on how to better interrogate juveniles or even on how to better assess whether someone has understood his or her Miranda rights, it is best not to hold your breath. Most police officers use an interrogation method that has repeatedly been shown to be faulty.

Known as the "Reid Technique," it relies on officers' observations of a suspect's body language and demeanor during an interrogation. Should the suspect be fidgety, officers will read that as a sign of dishonesty. Unfortunately, most people are conscious of their body language, ticks and demeanor when they are lying, and will appear quite calm. Moreover, the stress of the interrogation will make many truthful people appear to be lying.

If these are the techniques that police use in Trenton, it is no surprise that there are a number of false confessions among young people.

Source: Pacific Standard, "How Can We Prevent False Confessions From Kids and Teenagers?" Lauren Kirchner, June 17, 2014

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