Do Juveniles Get Fair Treatment in the Ohio Juvenile Justice System?
Some court reforms encourage rehabilitation, but Miranda rights administration must be improved
The Ohio Juvenile Courts handle offenses ranging from mild mischief to more significant charges, such as robbery, violence and drug crimes committed by children. The most serious charges can even be elevated to the adult courts. Due to the belief that juvenile offenders have a greater likelihood for rehabilitation than do adults, the Ohio Juvenile Courts have made an admirable move toward retaining more cases based on the offender’s ability to reform. However, the arrest procedure does not do enough to adequately protect the Constitutional rights of young suspects.
Children receive the same Miranda warnings issued to adult offenders. However, as children, most do not understand the full importance of their rights to remain silent and to call an attorney. Particularly since the police are not required to call the parents or guardians before questioning, the child must make some very adult decisions, as described by the Office of the Ohio Public Defender. Any error in judgment can lead to some serious issues, including the following:
- Children can inadvertently waive their right to remain silent under the belief that they can receive better treatment through cooperation.
- Ohio law requires attorney representation only when children face felony charges. Convinced of their own innocence, children may waive legal representation because they do not think they need it.
- Children may plead guilty, waiving their right to a trial, if they view a trial as worse than other potential consequences for an offense. Without legal representation, they do not understand the importance of forcing the state to prove its case.
All parents should understand these issues, even if they cannot foresee their children entering the juvenile justice system. Mistaken identity alone can put any child in a frightening situation at the police station, so it’s important to educate your children on what to do in the event of an encounter with police — including when to call an experienced Ohio juvenile criminal defense attorney.