Washington Law Review


A juvenile offender whose case has been transferred from juvenile court to criminal court may be confronted with incriminating statements which he made during the course of the juvenile proceedings. The admissibility in a criminal prosecution of confessions and admissions made by a juvenile to police, probation officers, juvenile court judges, or other juvenile authorities involves important issues of public policy and constitutional law. The problem typically arises when a youth of sixteen or seventeen commits an act which, were he an adult, would be characterized as a crime. The youth has a history of several juvenile offenses. He is arrested and quickly confesses. Why not? The police "know" he did it; lying or refusing to answer questions will only aggravate the situation. If he cooperates, he may receive better treatment from the judge. He also cooperates with the juvenile probation officer who interrogates him, because he knows that the probation officer will make recommendations to the juvenile court judge regarding treatment. Despite the youth's cooperation with the authorities, the juvenile court judge decides to transfer the case to criminal court. The youth is then confronted by the prosecutor and is advised to plead guilty; conviction is a foregone conclusion, because the prosecutor has the youth's own confession and admissions to use against him. The youth is unaware that serious questions of constitutional law have arisen from this turn of events, but he probably is bitterly aware that the cooperative behavior required to win leniency in juvenile court has paradoxically damned him to almost certain conviction in criminal court.

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