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Florida Criminal Law

POLICE QUESTIONING OF A MINOR

WHAT TO DO IF THE POLICE WANT TO QUESTION YOUR MINOR CHILD?

This is a somewhat unusual situation, but we just had it come up over the weekend – so I thought it was a worthy topic

The potential client reported that a Sheriff’s Deputy came to the door to question his 15 year old son.  The officer would not tell the parent what it was about and offered no information to the obviously concerned parent.  The unquestioning parent permitted the officer to question the child and the officer told the child not to discuss the questioning.  The officer left and the child refused to tell his parents what took place.

We have had this occur in several situations.  They are distinct and separate.  If the officer is investigating a possible case of child abuse, they are not required to give the parent any more information than to identify themselves as a police officer…and…that they are investigating a case of possible child abuse.  The officer may then question the child outside the presence of the parents.  As to instructing a child NOT to discuss the matter with the parents, that is improper.  An officer can tell a child he need not discuss the matter but he cannot “direct” the child not to speak to their parents.  An officer investigating a possible claim of abuse has leeway to speak to your child, and has the authority to remove a child from your home, if the situation warrants.

The other side of the issue is whether or not an officer investigating a crime has the right to speak to your child.  If your child is in your home, unless the officer is in “hot pursuit” they cannot take the child out of the house without your consent, short of a warrant.  If you permit an officer to speak to your child in your home, it is consensual but can be stopped at any time.  The officer can ask that you not be present, but there is no requirement that you comply with this request and you may simply stop the interview until the officer has the proper warrant, at which time your child has the right to have an attorney present.

As with any person, if an officer attempts to question a them, whether they are a minor or not, there is no obligation to answer any question.  You should not leave unless dismissed, however, you are not legally required to answer questions if you do not wish to do so, and this applies to a child.

As soon as DCF or local law enforcement contacts you, you should contact an attorney who can assist you during the investigation stage.  A dependency action is a legal process brought by the State of Florida.  If a parent is reported for suspected child neglect or child abuse, the child protection investigator must investigate the claim.

If you are accused of child abuse or neglect in a dependency action, you need to immediately contact skilled, caring legal counsel to help you get your children back or to defend you against the allegations.

If you find yourself in such a position it is best to consult an attorney with substantial experience. There are so many different circumstances that a proper answer to your particular problem can only be obtained by a trained and experienced lawyer.

If you have any question regarding this or any other legal matter our firm may be able to help you. Please contact Jupiter Legal Advocates at (561) 748-8000 or email us at info@jla.legal for further information and assistance. We try our very best to respond immediately.

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