Right to Counsel at Interrogation

About This Issue

As early 1948 the U.S. Supreme Court noted the heightened vulnerability of youth in the interrogation room when in Haley v. Ohio they stated, “we cannot believe that a lad of tender years is a match for the police in such a contest. He needs counsel and support if he is not to become the victim first of fear, then of panic. He needs someone on whom to lean lest the overpowering presence of the law, as he knows it, may not crush him.”

Few states ensure that youth have an attorney present in the interrogation room. States that have adopted policies promoting the right to counsel at interrogation have all acknowledged the inherent injustice in subjecting young people to the tactics of police interrogation without an attorney by their side. To uphold youth rights, advocates and justice system participants must advance policies to ensure youth have counsel at interrogation.


States Have Made Some Progress


In 2016, New Mexico prohibited the use of statements or confessions from children under age 13 and created a rebuttable presumption that confessions or statements made by 13- or 14-year-olds are inadmissible.


In 2017, Illinois required that children under the age of 15 charged with homicides or sex offenses “must be represented by counsel” during the entirety of their custodial interrogation.


In 2021, California established a non-waivable right for youth to consult with an attorney prior to a custodial interrogation.

Also in 2021, Illinois and Oregon established presumptions that confessions by youth are inadmissible when a law enforcement officer knowingly uses deception.