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J. D. B. v. North Carolina


The defendant was 13-year-old suspect in two home break-ins. A uniformed officer removed him from his classroom and took him to a closed-door conference room. The defendant was then questioned for half an hour, during which he initially denied any wrongdoing. He then inquired whether he would “still be in trouble” if he returned “the stuff.” The officer explained that the matter was destined to go to court and that a juvenile seizure order may be obtained.


Whether the defendant’s age plays a role in the court’s determination of “custody” for Miranda purposes?


Yes. The test to determine “custody” remains an objective one, though the government must take into account the age of the suspect if it is known or knowable to the officer.


In updating its position in Alvarado, the Court noted that “Justice O’Connor’s concurring opinion explained that a suspect’s age may indeed ‘be relevant to the ‘custody’ inquiry’ (quoting Alvarado).” In some circumstances, “a reasonable child subjected to police questioning will sometimes feel pressured to submit when a reasonable adult would feel free to go.” Therefore, the Court held that “so long as the child’s age was known to the officer at the time of police questioning, or would have been objectively apparent to a reasonable officer, its inclusion in the custody analysis is consistent with the objective nature of that test.”


564 U.S. ___, 131 S. Ct. 2394 (2011)

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