Golden Gate University Law Review


The controversial debate—whether minors understand the complexity of Miranda rights—has prevented lawmakers from producing laws that assist minors in comprehending these warnings. As a protected class, minors should be provided with extra counseling if they are faced with criminal charges in order to save judicial resources and help keep innocent minors out of the criminal justice system. A law mandating that minors consult with a pro tem attorney prior to questioning could reduce the number of cases awaiting adjudication, relieve the court of having to investigate whether the minor was coerced, threatened, intimidated, tricked, or falsely promised, and would create a modified standard for minors and Miranda warnings. Like in Reyes, this issue is not often addressed as there is a preference to avoid constitutional questions if they can be resolved by non-constitutional application. Due to the reality of the judiciary’s prudential doctrine of constitutional avoidance, this Note calls for further legislative action in California to remedy this systemic problem.

Section I provides a general background on juveniles in the criminal justice system and how legal standards for minors continue to narrow. Next, Section II reviews Reyes v. Lewis as it traveled from the Riverside Superior Court to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Then Section III examines how the Ninth Circuit missed an opportunity to address the issue of minors and Miranda warnings, how different courts and states have implemented modern Miranda standards for minors, and how the California Legislature has finally passed a law that orders a mandatory consultation with legal counsel before suspects, aged 15 years or younger, are interrogated by police. Lastly, Section IV concludes that, although the Ninth Circuit correctly found a Seibert violation, the court should have used the Seibert analysis to uncover a Miranda violation and introduce a new standard for minors and Miranda rights.