Kids in custody must be read Miranda

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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Everyone being taken into custody must be advised of the Miranda rule, no matter what age the person is, ruled the Indiana Court of Appeals in overturning a nine-year-old child's adjudication as a delinquent child.

In C.L.M. v. State of Indiana, 35A05-0706-JV-342, C.L.M., appealed the ruling that he was a delinquent child for committing what would have constituted as a Class C felony child molestation if it was committed by an adult, arguing he was never read his Miranda rights while being interviewed in custody.

C.L.M.'s mother, Sheila, found him and his three-year-old sister, A.B., lying on top of each other, with stomachs touching. A.B. had her pants down to her knees and C.L.M.'s pants were down at his thighs; both still had on underwear. The mother saw the children "in motion," did not see their "private areas touching," and immediately pulled the children apart.

The mother brought her children to the Child Advocacy Center for an interview, and Sheila informed a caseworker and police detective what she had seen. Detective Mel Hunnicutt interviewed C.L.M. alone twice; the boy said it was A.B.'s idea that they "hump," later admitted he initiated the contact, and that he touched his sister's crotch with his hand.

The State filed a petition alleging delinquency, stating C.L.M. was a delinquent child for committing what would have been a Class C felony for child molestation if he were an adult. C.L.M's attorney attempted to suppress C.L.M.'s testimony on grounds he was in custody and not read his Miranda rights. The court denied the motion to suppress and issued an order adjudicating C.L.M. as a delinquent child.

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, citing no one disputes the fact C.L.M. did not receive the Miranda warning nor was he given the opportunity to speak to his mother before answering questions. Even though C.L.M. was not under arrest and free to go at any time, he was never told that by the detective. Because the boy was in custody, he should have been given a Miranda warning.

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