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Senate bill would outlaw police interrogations of children without parents' knowledge

Juveniles would need to be offered lawyers and their parents would need to be notified of their arrest before police can question them under a bill sponsored by Sen. Jill Carter, a Baltimore Democrat.

Calling the bill a “no-brainer,” during a hearing before the senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee Thursday, Carter argued existing policies expose kids to unnecessary risks in the justice system.

“We all know that our Constitution guarantees persons the right to an attorney in a custodial interrogation. But we have carved out an exception when it comes to the most vulnerable among us, our children,” Carter said

Jenny Egan, chief attorney in the State Public Defender’s office, said passing the bill is a major priority in her office, and that action on the issue is overdue.

“Understanding that children and adolescents are fundamentally different from adults means that they should not be treated or viewed as adults when it comes to our Miranda warning,” Egan said. "This bill is about making sure young people have due process."

Critics say the policy may be too lenient on minors who commit violent crimes and deter law enforcement officers from conducting custodial interrogations.

Allan Culver, the State’s Attorney for Carroll County, said the bill would “effectively eliminate the ability to question for even the most violent crimes such as rape and murder.”

Culver proposed video and audio recording all interactions between law enforcement and juveniles.

The bill is one of several on Carter’s 2022 legislative agenda directed at reforming the state’s approach to juveniles in the criminal justice system.

Callan Tansill-Suddath is a State House Reporter for WYPR, where she covers the General Assembly.