The New Jersey Appellate Division issued its opinion in State in the Interests of P.M.P. on Monday. The case involved the issue of whether it was proper for county investigators to interrogate a juvenile who had been arrested for sexual assault but who was already represented by counsel in a separate matter. The suspect provided a full confession during the course of the interrogation and his attorney sought to invalidate the confession. In ruling on this issue, the Trial Court found that it was improper for the questioning to take place without counsel being present.
The Appellate Division overturned the Trial Court and concluded that the confession was properly admissible against the Juvenile. In reaching this conclusion, the Court found the fact that the juvenile knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to counsel to be significant. The Court also reasoned that juvenile delinquency is a different process with different objectives such that the rule which might apply to adult criminal defendants in a similar position need not be applied in the context of a juvenile defendant.
I find the decision in this case somewhat alarming. The case has opened the door to a rather scary scenario where juvenile defendants can be interrogated without counsel notwithstanding full knowledge that he is represented by counsel in an independent case. The New Jersey Juvenile Defense Lawyers at our office will continue to apply the philosophy that children should be afforded greater protection than adults and that the decision in this case is therefore more of a reflection of unique facts rather than a general proposition of law to be applied in every case.