New Maryland law limits juvenile interrogations

Across Maryland, there are new protections in place for juveniles under arrest.

On Oct. 1, a new law took effect that says in most cases, police can no longer question a child without an attorney present.

The Child Interrogation Protection Act withstood a veto by Governor Larry Hogan and pushback from law enforcement across the state.

Supporters say it’s about protecting kids vulnerable to false confessions.

The law says police can’t question a juvenile in custody without an attorney present, even if a parent gives the OK.

"A parent can’t agree for the child to be interrogated without an attorney," said Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery), a sponsor of the bill. "So, the attorney would have to be present if there was a possibility for that to happen. In emergency circumstances where there is a public safety danger, this law doesn’t apply. Police can go ahead and move forward with the child."

Waldstreicher said the bill was amended to make sure police can question a child if there’s a safety threat involved. He said this also doesn’t impact police speaking to minors in circumstances outside of an arrest.

"It doesn’t apply for a traffic stop. It doesn’t apply in a school or at the side of the road. Investigatory questioning of a child is still allowed under current law," he said.

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Lawmakers heard serious concerns from Maryland’s chiefs of police association, sheriff’s association, and state’s attorney’s association.

"If a police officer has to get the permission of a defense attorney before speaking to someone that investigation is effectively over," said Laura Wilt, with the Frederick Co. State’s Attorney’s Office, during a hearing. "Anyone speaking truth will tell you that the attorney will advise you not to speak to police every single time."

Wilt said that recording interviews would be a better way to protect youth.

In his veto letter Gov. Hogan wrote in part: "At a time where the public is concerned about increases in juvenile crime, this bill removes a crucial tool from the toolbox in the investigation of criminal activity and the administration of justice."