Courts have long recognized the civil right of the accused to have counsel present during custodial interrogations. If you are suspected of a crime and the police bring you in for questioning, they must end the conversation if you ask for an attorney. This is one of the hallmarks of the well-known Miranda warning police must recite in the course of an arrest.
Curiously though, the right to counsel doesn’t automatically extend to minors in all cases in Illinois though this population is the among the most vulnerable for self-incrimination. However, a new law may soon change that.
When Minors Do and Do Not Have the Right to Legal Counsel in Illinois
Under the current law, any minor under the age of 13 must have an attorney present if police wish to question him or her about a murder or sex crime. If the minor says anything to police without an attorney present, it will not be admitted at trial.
While this law is good for extremely young defendants, it has long left those between the ages of 13 and 18 out in the cold. This group is more likely to be accused of a serious crime than extremely young defendants, and may not fully understand the legal consequences of speaking with police officers.
Senate Bill 2370 now looks to change that, however. As it currently stands, the bill would require an attorney to be present anytime someone under the age of 18 is questioned about any crime, not just the most serious offenses. Any sort of oral or written statement made while outside the presence of legal counsel would be inadmissible in court unless a prosecutor could show by a preponderance of the evidence that the statement was reliable and made voluntary without any coercion from police officers. In addition, minors could not waive the right to counsel under any circumstances.
The law would also broaden the definition of what constitutes an interrogation for a minor to include any situation in which the minor would reasonably believe that he or she is in police custody and which might elicit an incriminating response.
The bill has garnered more than a dozen co-sponsors on the Illinois Senate, and amendments added to it in committees have only strengthened its protections for minors accused of crimes. The bill is scheduled for a third reading in the Senate in May.
Chicago Defense Lawyer
The right to counsel is one of America’s post important constitutional rights, and should be extended to minors in all circumstances. If you ask for an attorney to be present while being questioned by police and officers refuse to provide you with counsel, anything you say may be barred from evidence at trial, and this could be used as grounds for an appeal of your conviction. For more information about the right to counsel and the appeal process in Illinois, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today for a consultation about your case.