J.D.B. v. NORTH CAROLINA
A North Carolina boy identified as J.D.B. was 13-year-old special education student in 2005 when the police showed up at his school to question him about a string of neighborhood burglaries. The police had learned that the boy was in possession of a digital camera that had been reported stolen.The boy was escorted to a school conference room, where he was interrogated in the presence of school officials. J.D.B.'s parents were not contacted, and he was not given any warnings about his rights under the 1966 decision in Miranda v. Arizona, such as the right to remain silent or to have access to a lawyer. J.D.B. confessed to the crimes, but later sought to have his confession suppressed on the basis that he was never read his Miranda rights. He argued that because he was effectively in police custody when he incriminated himself, he was entitled to Miranda protections. In December 2009, the North Carolina Supreme Court held that it could not consider the boy's age or special education status in determining whether he was in custody, and because he was not in custody, he was not entitled to Miranda warnings.
Should courts consider the age of a juvenile suspect in deciding whether he or she is in custody for Miranda purposes?
Legal provision: Miranda Rights
Yes. A divided Supreme Court reversed the lower court order in an opinion by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the state court to determine whether the youth was in custody when he was interrogated. (1966). "It is beyond dispute that children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult in the same circumstances would feel free to leave. Seeing no reason for police officers or courts to blind themselves to that commonsense reality, we hold that a child's age properly informs the Miranda custody analysis," Sotomayor wrote for the majority. Justice Samuel Alito filed a dissenting opinion joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. "The Court's decision in this case may seem on first consideration to be modest and sensible, but in truth it is neither, Alito writes. "It is fundamentally inconsistent with one of the main justifications for the Miranda rule: the perceived need for a clear rule that can be easily applied in all cases. And today's holding is not needed to protect the constitutional rights of minors who are questioned by the police."
Opinion of the Court
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SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
J. D. B., PETITIONER v. NORTH CAROLINA
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF
[June 16, 2011]
JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case presents the question whether the age of a child subjected to police questioning is relevant to the custody analysis of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436 (1966). It is beyond dispute that children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult in the same circumstances would feel free to leave. Seeing no reason for police officers or courts to blind themselves to that commonsense reality, we hold that a child’s age properly informs the Miranda custody analysis.
Petitioner J. D. B. was a 13-year-old, seventh-grade student attending class at Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina when he was removed from his classroom by a uniformed police officer, escorted to a closeddoor conference room, and questioned by police for at least half an hour.
This was the second time that police questioned J. D. B. in the span of a week. Five days earlier, two home breakins occurred, and various items were stolen. Police stopped and questioned J. D. B. after he was seen behind a residence in the neighborhood where the crimes occurred. That same day, police also spoke to J. D. B.’s grandmother—his legal guardian—as well as his aunt.
Police later learned that a digital camera matching the description of one of the stolen items had been found at J. D. B.’s middle school and seen in J. D. B.’s possession. Investigator DiCostanzo, the juvenile investigator with the local police force who had been assigned to the case, went to the school to question J. D. B. Upon arrival, DiCostanzo informed the uniformed police officer on detail to the school (a so-called school resource officer), the assistant principal, and an administrative intern that he was there to question J. D. B. about the break-ins. Although DiCostanzo asked the school administrators to verify J. D. B.’s date of birth, address, and parent contact information from school records, neither the police officers nor the school administrators contacted J. D. B.’s grandmother.
The uniformed officer interrupted J. D. B.’s afternoon social studies class, removed J. D. B. from the classroom, and escorted him to a school conference room.1 There, J. D. B. was met by DiCostanzo, the assistant principal, and the administrative intern. The door to the conference room was closed. With the two police officers and the two administrators present, J. D. B. was questioned for the next 30 to 45 minutes. Prior to the commencement of questioning, J. D. B. was given neither Miranda warnings nor the opportunity to speak to his grandmother. Nor was he informed that he was free to leave the room.
Questioning began with small talk—discussion of sports and J. D. B.’s family life. DiCostanzo asked, and J. D. B. agreed, to discuss the events of the prior weekend. Denying any wrongdoing, J. D. B. explained that he had been in the neighborhood where the crimes occurred because he was seeking work mowing lawns. DiCostanzo pressed J. D. B. for additional detail about his efforts to obtain work; asked J. D. B. to explain a prior incident, when one of the victims returned home to find J. D. B. behind her house; and confronted J. D. B. with the stolen camera. The assistant principal urged J. D. B. to “do the right thing,” warning J. D. B. that “the truth always comes out in the end.” App. 99a, 112a.
Eventually, J. D. B. asked whether he would “still be in trouble” if he returned the “stuff.” Ibid. In response, DiCostanzo explained that return of the stolen items would be helpful, but “this thing is going to court” regardless. Id., at 112a; ibid. (“[W]hat’s done is done[;] now you need to help yourself by making it right”); see also id., at 99a. DiCostanzo then warned that he may need to seek a secure custody order if he believed that J. D. B. would continue to break into other homes. When J. D. B. asked what a secure custody order was, DiCostanzo explained that “it’s where you get sent to juvenile detention before court.” Id., at 112a.
After learning of the prospect of juvenile detention, J. D. B. confessed that he and a friend were responsible for the break-ins. DiCostanzo only then informed J. D. B. that he could refuse to answer the investigator’s questions and that he was free to leave.2 Asked whether he understood, J. D. B. nodded and provided further detail, including information about the location of the stolen items. Eventually J. D. B. wrote a statement, at DiCostanzo’s request. When the bell rang indicating the end of the schoolday, J. D. B. was allowed to leave to catch the bus home.
Two juvenile petitions were filed against J. D. B., each alleging one count of breaking and entering and one count of larceny. J. D. B.’s public defender moved to suppress his statements and the evidence derived therefrom, arguing that suppression was necessary because J. D. B. had been “interrogated by police in a custodial setting without being afforded Miranda warning[s],” App. 89a, and because his statements were involuntary under the totality of the circumstances test, id., at 142a; see Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U. S. 218, 226 (1973) (due process precludes admission of a confession where “a defendant’s will was overborne” by the circumstances of the interrogation). After a suppression hearing at which DiCostanzo and J. D. B. testified, the trial court denied the motion, deciding that J. D. B. was not in custody at the time of the schoolhouse interrogation and that his statements were voluntary. As a result, J. D. B. entered a transcript of admission to all four counts, renewing his objection to the denial of his motion to suppress, and the court adjudicated J. D. B. delinquent. A divided panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed. In re J. D. B., 196 N. C. App. 234, 674 S. E. 2d 795 (2009). The North Carolina Supreme Court held, over two dissents, that J. D. B. was not in custody when he confessed, “declin[ing] to extend the test for custody to include consideration of the age . . . of an individual subjected to questioning by police.” In re J. D. B., 363 N. C. 664, 672, 686 S. E. 2d 135, 140 (2009).3
We granted certiorari to determine whether the Miranda custody analysis includes consideration of a juvenile suspect’s age. 562 U. S. ___ (2010).
Any police interview of an individual suspected of a crime has “coercive aspects to it.” Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U. S. 492, 495 (1977) (per curiam). Only those interrogations that occur while a suspect is in police custody, however, “heighte[n] the risk” that statements obtained are not the product of the suspect’s free choice. Dickerson v. United States, 530 U. S. 428, 435 (2000).
By its very nature, custodial police interrogation entails “inherently compelling pressures.” Miranda, 384 U. S., at 467. Even for an adult, the physical and psychological isolation of custodial interrogation can “undermine the individual’s will to resist and . . . compel him to speak where he would not otherwise do so freely.” Ibid. Indeed, the pressure of custodial interrogation is so immense that it “can induce a frighteningly high percentage of people to confess to crimes they never committed.” Corley v. United States, 556 U. S. __, __ (2009) (slip op., at 16) (citing Drizin & Leo, The Problem of False Confessions in the Post-DNA World, 82 N. C. L. Rev. 891, 906–907 (2004)); see also Miranda, 384 U. S., at 455, n. 23. That risk is all the more troubling—and recent studies suggest, all the more acute—when the subject of custodial interrogation is a juvenile. See Brief for Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth et al. as Amici Curiae 21–22 (collecting empirical studies that “illustrate the heightened risk of false confessions from youth”).
Recognizing that the inherently coercive nature of custodial interrogation “blurs the line between voluntary and involuntary statements,” Dickerson, 530 U. S., at 435, this Court in Miranda adopted a set of prophylactic measures designed to safeguard the constitutional guarantee against self-incrimination. Prior to questioning, a suspect “must be warned that he has a right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed.” 384 U. S., at 444; see also Florida v. Powell, 559 U. S. ___, ___ (2010) (slip op., at 8) (“The four warnings Miranda requires are invariable, but this Court has not dictated the words in which the essential information must be conveyed”). And, if a suspect makes a statement during custodial interrogation, the burden is on the Government to show, as a “prerequisit[e]” to the statement’s admissibility as evidence in the Government’s case in chief, that the defendant “voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently” waived his rights.4 Miranda, 384 U. S., at 444, 475–476; Dickerson, 530 U. S., at 443–444. Because these measures protect the individual against the coercive nature of custodial interrogation, they are required “ ‘only where there has been such a restriction on a person’s freedom as to render him “in custody.” ’ ” Stansbury v. California, 511 U. S. 318, 322 (1994) (per curiam) (quoting Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U. S. 492, 495 (1977) (per curiam)). As we have repeatedly emphasized, whether a suspect is “in custody” is an objective inquiry. “Two discrete inquiries are essential to the determination: first, what were the circumstances surrounding the interrogation; and second, given those circumstances, would a reasonable person have felt he or she was at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave. Once the scene is set and the players’ lines and actions are reconstructed, the court must apply an objective test to resolve the ultimate inquiry: was there a formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement of the degree associated with formal arrest.” Thompson v. Keohane, 516 U. S. 99, 112 (1995) (internal quotation marks, alteration, and footnote omitted). See also Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U. S. 652, 662–663 (2004); Stansbury, 511 U. S., at 323; Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U. S. 420, 442, and n. 35 (1984). Rather than demarcate a limited set of relevant circumstances, we have required police officers and courts to “examine all of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation,” Stansbury, 511 U. S., at 322, including any circumstance that “would have affected how a reasonable person” in the suspect’s position “would perceive his or her freedom to leave,” id., at 325. On the other hand, the “subjective views harbored by either the interrogating officers or the person being questioned” are irrelevant. Id., at 323. The test, in other words, involves no consideration of the “actual mindset” of the particular suspect subjected to police questioning. Alvarado, 541 U. S., at 667; see also California v. Beheler, 463 U. S. 1121, 1125, n. 3 (1983) (per curiam).
The benefit of the objective custody analysis is that it is “designed to give clear guidance to the police.” Alvarado, 541 U. S., at 668. But see Berkemer, 468 U. S., at 441 (recognizing the “occasiona[l] . . . difficulty” that police and courts nonetheless have in “deciding exactly when a suspect has been taken into custody”). Police must make inthe-moment judgments as to when to administer Miranda warnings. By limiting analysis to the objective circumstances of the interrogation, and asking how a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would understand his freedom to terminate questioning and leave, the objective test avoids burdening police with the task of anticipating the idiosyncrasies of every individual suspect and divining how those particular traits affect each person’s subjective state of mind. See id., at 430–431 (officers are not required to “make guesses” as to circumstances “unknowable” to them at the time); Alvarado, 541 U. S., at 668 (officers are under no duty “to consider . . . contingent psychological factors when deciding when suspects should be advised of their Miranda rights”).
The State and its amici contend that a child’s age has no place in the custody analysis, no matter how young the child subjected to police questioning. We cannot agree. In some circumstances, a child’s age “would have affected how a reasonable person” in the suspect’s position “would perceive his or her freedom to leave.” Stansbury, 511 U. S., at 325. That is, a reasonable child subjected to police questioning will sometimes feel pressured to submit when a reasonable adult would feel free to go. We think it clear that courts can account for that reality without doing any damage to the objective nature of the custody analysis.
A child’s age is far “more than a chronological fact.” Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U. S. 104, 115 (1982); accord, Gall v. United States, 552 U. S. 38, 58 (2007); Roper v. Simmons, 543 U. S. 551, 569 (2005); Johnson v. Texas, 509 U. S. 350, 367 (1993). It is a fact that “generates commonsense conclusions about behavior and perception.” Alvarado, 541 U. S., at 674 (BREYER, J., dissenting). Such conclusions apply broadly to children as a class. And, they are self-evident to anyone who was a child once himself, including any police officer or judge.
Time and again, this Court has drawn these commonsense conclusions for itself. We have observed that children “generally are less mature and responsible than adults,” Eddings, 455 U. S., at 115–116; that they “often lack the experience, perspective, and judgment to recognize and avoid choices that could be detrimental to them,” Bellotti v. Baird, 443 U. S. 622, 635 (1979) (plurality opinion); that they “are more vulnerable or susceptible to . . . outside pressures” than adults, Roper, 543 U. S., at 569; and so on. See Graham v. Florida, 560 U. S. ___, ___ (2010) (slip op., at 17) (finding no reason to “reconsider” these observations about the common “nature of juveniles”). Addressing the specific context of police interrogation, we have observed that events that “would leave a man cold and unimpressed can overawe and overwhelm a lad in his early teens.” Haley v. Ohio, 332 U. S. 596, 599 (1948) (plurality opinion); see also Gallegos v. Colorado, 370 U. S. 49, 54 (1962) (“[N]o matter how sophisticated,” a juvenile subject of police interrogation “cannot be compared” to an adult subject). Describing no one child in particular, these observations restate what “any parent knows”—indeed, what any person knows—about children generally. Roper, 543 U. S., at 569.5 Our various statements to this effect are far from unique. The law has historically reflected the same assumption that children characteristically lack the capacity to exercise mature judgment and possess only an incomplete ability to understand the world around them. See, e.g., 1 W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England *464–*465 (hereinafter Blackstone) (explaining that limits on children’s legal capacity under the common law “secure them from hurting themselves by their own improvident acts”). Like this Court’s own generalizations, the legal disqualifications placed on children as a class— e.g., limitations on their ability to alienate property, enter a binding contract enforceable against them, and marry without parental consent—exhibit the settled understanding that the differentiating characteristics of youth are universal.6
Indeed, even where a “reasonable person” standard otherwise applies, the common law has reflected the reality that children are not adults. In negligence suits, for instance, where liability turns on what an objectively reasonable person would do in the circumstances, “[a]ll American jurisdictions accept the idea that a person’s childhood is a relevant circumstance” to be considered. Restatement (Third) of Torts §10, Comment b, p. 117 (2005); see also id., Reporters’ Note, pp. 121–122 (collecting cases); Restatement (Second) of Torts §283A, Comment b, p. 15 (1963–1964) (“[T]here is a wide basis of community experience upon which it is possible, as a practical matter, to determine what is to be expected of [children]”).
As this discussion establishes, “[o]ur history is replete with laws and judicial recognition” that children cannot be viewed simply as miniature adults. Eddings, 455 U. S., at 115–116. We see no justification for taking a different course here. So long as the child’s age was known to the officer at the time of the interview, or would have been objectively apparent to any reasonable officer, including age as part of the custody analysis requires officers neither to consider circumstances “unknowable” to them, Berkemer, 468 U. S., at 430, nor to “anticipat[e] the frailties or idiosyncrasies” of the particular suspect whom they question, Alvarado, 541 U. S., at 662 (internal quotation marks omitted). The same “wide basis of community experience” that makes it possible, as an objective matter, “to determine what is to be expected” of children in other contexts, Restatement (Second) of Torts §283A, at 15; see supra, at 10, and n. 6, likewise makes it possible to know what to expect of children subjected to police questioning.
In other words, a child’s age differs from other personal characteristics that, even when known to police, have no objectively discernible relationship to a reasonable person’s understanding of his freedom of action. Alvarado, holds, for instance, that a suspect’s prior interrogation history with law enforcement has no role to play in the custody analysis because such experience could just as easily lead a reasonable person to feel free to walk away as to feel compelled to stay in place. 541 U. S., at 668. Because the effect in any given case would be “contingent [on the] psycholog[y]” of the individual suspect, the Court explained, such experience cannot be considered without compromising the objective nature of the custody analysis. Ibid. A child’s age, however, is different. Precisely because childhood yields objective conclusions like those we have drawn ourselves—among others, that children are “most susceptible to influence,” Eddings, 455 U. S., at 115, and “outside pressures,” Roper, 543 U. S., at 569— considering age in the custody analysis in no way involves a determination of how youth “subjectively affect[s] the mindset” of any particular child, Brief for Respondent 14.7
In fact, in many cases involving juvenile suspects, the custody analysis would be nonsensical absent some consideration of the suspect’s age. This case is a prime example. Were the court precluded from taking J. D. B.’s youth into account, it would be forced to evaluate the circumstances present here through the eyes of a reasonable person of average years. In other words, how would a reasonable adult understand his situation, after being removed from a seventh-grade social studies class by a uniformed school resource officer; being encouraged by his assistant principal to “do the right thing”; and being warned by a police investigator of the prospect of juvenile detention and separation from his guardian and primary caretaker? To describe such an inquiry is to demonstrate its absurdity. Neither officers nor courts can reasonably evaluate the effect of objective circumstances that, by their nature, are specific to children without accounting for the age of the child subjected to those circumstances.
Indeed, although the dissent suggests that concerns “regarding the application of the Miranda custody rule to minors can be accommodated by considering the unique circumstances present when minors are questioned in school,” post, at 17 (opinion of ALITO, J.), the effect of the schoolhouse setting cannot be disentangled from the identity of the person questioned. A student—whose presence at school is compulsory and whose disobedience at school is cause for disciplinary action—is in a far different position than, say, a parent volunteer on school grounds to chaperone an event, or an adult from the community on school grounds to attend a basketball game. Without asking whether the person “questioned in school” is a “minor,” ibid., the coercive effect of the schoolhouse setting is unknowable.
Our prior decision in Alvarado in no way undermines these conclusions. In that case, we held that a state-court decision that failed to mention a 17-year-old’s age as part of the Miranda custody analysis was not objectively unreasonable under the deferential standard of review set forth by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), 110 Stat. 1214. Like the North Carolina Supreme Court here, see 363 N. C., at 672, 686 S. E. 2d, at 140, we observed that accounting for a juvenile’s age in the Miranda custody analysis “could be viewed as creating a subjective inquiry,” 541 U. S., at 668. We said nothing, however, of whether such a view would be correct under the law. Cf. Renico v. Lett, 559 U. S. ___, ____, n. 3 (2010) (slip op., at 11, n. 3) (“[W]hether the [state court] was right or wrong is not the pertinent question under AEDPA”). To the contrary, Justice O’Connor’s concurring opinion explained that a suspect’s age may indeed “be relevant to the ‘custody’ inquiry.” Alvarado, 541 U. S., at 669.
Reviewing the question de novo today, we hold that so long as the child’s age was known to the officer at the time of police questioning, or would have been objectively apparent to a reasonable officer, its inclusion in the custody analysis is consistent with the objective nature of that test.8 This is not to say that a child’s age will be a determinative, or even a significant, factor in every case. Cf. ibid. (O’Connor, J., concurring) (explaining that a statecourt decision omitting any mention of the defendant’s age was not unreasonable under AEDPA’s deferential standard of review where the defendant “was almost 18 years old at the time of his interview”); post, at 17 (suggesting that “teenagers nearing the age of majority” are likely to react to an interrogation as would a “typical 18-year-old in similar circumstances”). It is, however, a reality that courts cannot simply ignore.
The State and its amici offer numerous reasons that courts must blind themselves to a juvenile defendant’s age. None is persuasive.
To start, the State contends that a child’s age must be excluded from the custody inquiry because age is a personal characteristic specific to the suspect himself rather than an “external” circumstance of the interrogation. Brief for Respondent 21; see also id., at 18–19 (distinguishing “personal characteristics” from “objective facts related to the interrogation itself” such as the location and duration of the interrogation). Despite the supposed significance of this distinction, however, at oral argument counsel for the State suggested without hesitation that at least some undeniably personal characteristics—for instance, whether the individual being questioned is blind— are circumstances relevant to the custody analysis. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 41. Thus, the State’s quarrel cannot be that age is a personal characteristic, without more.9
The State further argues that age is irrelevant to the custody analysis because it “go[es] to how a suspect may internalize and perceive the circumstances of an interrogation.” Brief for Respondent 12; see also Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 21 (hereinafter U. S. Brief) (arguing that a child’s age has no place in the custody analysis because it goes to whether a suspect is “particularly susceptible” to the external circumstances of the interrogation (some internal quotation marks omitted)). But the same can be said of every objective circumstance that the State agrees is relevant to the custody analysis: Each circumstance goes to how a reasonable person would “internalize and perceive” every other. See, e.g., Stansbury, 511 U. S., at 325. Indeed, this is the very reason that we ask whether the objective circumstances “add up to custody,” Keohane, 516 U. S., at 113, instead of evaluating the circumstances one by one.
In the same vein, the State and its amici protest that the “effect of . . . age on [the] perception of custody is internal,” Brief for Respondent 20, or “psychological,” U. S. Brief 21. But the whole point of the custody analysis is to determine whether, given the circumstances, “a reasonable person [would] have felt he or she was . . . at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave.” Keohane, 516 U. S., at 112. Because the Miranda custody inquiry turns on the mindset of a reasonable person in the suspect’s position, it cannot be the case that a circumstance is subjective simply because it has an “internal” or “psychological” impact on perception. Were that so, there would be no objective circumstances to consider at all.
Relying on our statements that the objective custody test is “designed to give clear guidance to the police,” Alvarado, 541 U. S., at 668, the State next argues that a child’s age must be excluded from the analysis in order to preserve clarity. Similarly, the dissent insists that the clarity of the custody analysis will be destroyed unless a “one-size-fits-all reasonable-person test” applies. Post, at 13. In reality, however, ignoring a juvenile defendant’s age will often make the inquiry more artificial, see supra, at 12–13, and thus only add confusion. And in any event, a child’s age, when known or apparent, is hardly an obscure factor to assess. Though the State and the dissent worry about gradations among children of different ages, that concern cannot justify ignoring a child’s age altogether. Just as police officers are competent to account for other objective circumstances that are a matter of degree such as the length of questioning or the number of officers present, so too are they competent to evaluate the effect of relative age. Indeed, they are competent to do so even though an interrogation room lacks the “reflective atmosphere of a [jury] deliberation room,” post, at 15. The same is true of judges, including those whose childhoods have long since passed, see post, at 14. In short, officers and judges need no imaginative powers, knowledge of developmental psychology, training in cognitive science, or expertise in social and cultural anthropology to account for a child’s age. They simply need the common sense to know that a 7-year-old is not a 13-year-old and neither is an adult.
There is, however, an even more fundamental flaw with the State’s plea for clarity and the dissent’s singular focus on simplifying the analysis: Not once have we excluded from the custody analysis a circumstance that we determined was relevant and objective, simply to make the fault line between custodial and noncustodial “brighter.” Indeed, were the guiding concern clarity and nothing else, the custody test would presumably ask only whether the suspect had been placed under formal arrest. Berkemer, 468 U. S., at 441; see ibid. (acknowledging the “occasiona[l] . . . difficulty” police officers confront in determining when a suspect has been taken into custody). But we have rejected that “more easily administered line,” recognizing that it would simply “enable the police to circumvent the constraints on custodial interrogations established by Miranda.” Ibid.; see also ibid., n. 33.10
Finally, the State and the dissent suggest that excluding age from the custody analysis comes at no cost to juveniles’ constitutional rights because the due process voluntariness test independently accounts for a child’s youth. To be sure, that test permits consideration of a child’s age, and it erects its own barrier to admission of a defendant’s inculpatory statements at trial. See Gallegos, 370 U. S., at 53–55; Haley, 332 U. S., at 599–601; see also post, at 17– 18 (“[C]ourts should be instructed to take particular care to ensure that [young children’s] incriminating statements were not obtained involuntarily”). But Miranda’s procedural safeguards exist precisely because the voluntariness test is an inadequate barrier when custodial interrogation is at stake. See 384 U. S., at 458 (“Unless adequate protective devices are employed to dispel the compulsion inherent in custodial surroundings, no statement obtained from the defendant can truly be the product of his free choice”); Dickerson, 530 U. S., at 442 (“[R]eliance on the traditional totality-of-the-circumstances test raise[s] a risk of overlooking an involuntary custodial confession”); see also supra, at 5–6. To hold, as the State requests, that a child’s age is never relevant to whether a suspect has been taken into custody—and thus to ignore the very real differences between children and adults—would be to deny children the full scope of the procedural safeguards that Miranda guarantees to adults.
* * *
The question remains whether J. D. B. was in custody when police interrogated him. We remand for the state courts to address that question, this time taking account of all of the relevant circumstances of the interrogation, including J. D. B.’s age at the time. The judgment of the North Carolina Supreme Court is reversed, and the case is remanded for proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion. It is so ordered.
1 Although the State suggests that the “record is unclear as to who brought J. D. B. to the conference room, and the trial court made no factual findings on this specific point,” Brief for Respondent 3, n. 1, the State agreed at the certiorari stage that “the SRO [school resource officer] escorted petitioner” to the room, Brief in Opposition 3.
2 The North Carolina Supreme Court noted that the trial court’s factual findings were “uncontested and therefore . . . binding” on it. In re J. D. B., 363 N. C. 664, 668, 686 S. E. 2d 135, 137 (2009). The court described the sequence of events set forth in the text. See id., at 670– 671, 686 S. E. 2d, at 139. (“Immediately following J. D. B.’s initial confession, Investigator DiCostanzo informed J. D. B. that he did not have to speak with him and that he was free to leave” (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted)). Though less than perfectly explicit, the trial court’s order indicates a finding that J. D. B. initially confessed prior to DiCostanzo’s warnings. See App. 99a. Nonetheless, both parties’ submissions to this Court suggest that the warnings came after DiCostanzo raised the possibility of a secure custody order but before J. D. B. confessed for the first time. See Brief for Petitioner 5; Brief for Respondent 5. Because we remand for a determination whether J. D. B. was in custody under the proper analysis, the state courts remain free to revisit whether the trial court made a conclusive finding of fact in this respect.
3 J. D. B.’s challenge in the North Carolina Supreme Court focused on the lower courts’ conclusion that he was not in custody for purposes of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436 (1966). The North Carolina Supreme Court did not address the trial court’s holding that the statements were voluntary, and that question is not before us.
4Amici on behalf of J. D. B. question whether children of all ages can comprehend Miranda warnings and suggest that additional procedural safeguards may be necessary to protect their Miranda rights. Brief for Juvenile Law Center et al. as Amici Curiae 13–14, n. 7. Whatever the merit of that contention, it has no relevance here, where no Miranda warnings were administered at all.
5 Although citation to social science and cognitive science authorities is unnecessary to establish these commonsense propositions, the literature confirms what experience bears out. See, e.g., Graham v. Florida, 560 U. S. ___, ___ (2010) (slip op., at 17) (“[D]evelopments in psychology and brain science continue to show fundamental differences between juvenile and adult minds”).
6 See, e.g., 1 E. Farnsworth, Contracts §4.4, p. 379, and n. 1 (1990) (“Common law courts early announced the prevailing view that a minor’s contract is ‘voidable’ at the instance of the minor” (citing 8 W. Holdsworth, History of English Law 51 (1926))); 1 D. Kramer, Legal Rights of Children §8.1, p. 663 (rev. 2d ed. 2005) (“[W]hile minor children have the right to acquire and own property, they are considered incapable of property management” (footnote omitted)); 2 J. Kent, Commentaries on American Law *78–*79, *90 (G. Comstock ed., 11th ed. 1867); see generally id., at *233 (explaining that, under the common law, “[t]he necessity of guardians results from the inability of infants to take care of themselves . . . and this inability continues, in contemplation of law, until the infant has attained the age of ”); 1 Blackstone *465 (“It is generally true, that an infant can neither aliene his lands, nor do any legal act, nor make a deed, nor indeed any manner of contract, that will bind him”); Roper v. Simmons, 543 U. S. 551, 569 (2005) (“In recognition of the comparative immaturity and irresponsibility of juveniles, almost every State prohibits those under 18 years of age from voting, serving on juries, or marrying without parental consent”).
7 Thus, contrary to the dissent’s protestations, today’s holding neither invites consideration of whether a particular suspect is “unusually meek or compliant,” post, at 9 (opinion of ALITO, J.), nor “expan[ds]” the Miranda custody analysis, post, at 8, into a test that requires officers to anticipate and account for a suspect’s every personal characteristic, see post, at 11–12.
8 This approach does not undermine the basic principle that an interrogating officer’s unarticulated, internal thoughts are never—in and of themselves—objective circumstances of an interrogation. See supra, at 7; Stansbury v. California, 511 U. S. 318, 323 (1994) (per curiam). Unlike a child’s youth, an officer’s purely internal thoughts have no conceivable effect on how a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would understand his freedom of action. See id., at 323–325; Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U. S. 420, 442 (1984). Rather than “overtur[n]” that settled principle, post, at 13, the limitation that a child’s age may inform the custody analysis only when known or knowable simply reflects our unwillingness to require officers to “make guesses” as to circumstances “unknowable” to them in deciding when to give Miranda warnings, Berkemer, 468 U. S., at 430–431.
9 The State’s purported distinction between blindness and age—that taking account of a suspect’s youth requires a court “to get into the mind” of the child, whereas taking account of a suspect’s blindness does not, Tr. of Oral Arg. 41–42—is mistaken. In either case, the question becomes how a reasonable person would understand the circumstances, either from the perspective of a blind person or, as here, a 13-year-old child.
10 Contrary to the dissent’s intimation, see post, at 8, Miranda does not answer the question whether a child’s age is an objective circumstance relevant to the custody analysis. Miranda simply holds that warnings must be given once a suspect is in custody, without “paus[ing] to inquire in individual cases whether the defendant was aware of his rights without a warning being given.” 384 U. S., at 468; see also id., at 468–469 (“Assessments of the knowledge the defendant possessed, based on information as to age, education, intelligence, or prior contact with authorities, can never be more than speculation; a warning is a clearcut fact” (footnote omitted)). That conclusion says nothing about whether age properly informs whether a child is in custody in the first place.
ALITO, J., dissenting
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
J. D. B., PETITIONER v. NORTH CAROLINA
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF
[June 16, 2011]
JUSTICE ALITO, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE SCALIA, and JUSTICE THOMAS join, dissenting.
The Court’s decision in this case may seem on first consideration to be modest and sensible, but in truth it is neither. It is fundamentally inconsistent with one of the main justifications for the Miranda1 rule: the perceived need for a clear rule that can be easily applied in all cases. And today’s holding is not needed to protect the constitu tional rights of minors who are questioned by the police.
Mirandarsquo;s prophylactic regime places a high value on clarity and certainty. Dissatisfied with the highly fact specific constitutional rule against the admission of involuntary confessions, the Miranda Court set down rigid standards that often require courts to ignore personal characteristics that may be highly relevant to a particular suspect’s actual susceptibility to police pressure. This rigidity, however, has brought with it one of Miranda’s principal strengths—“the ease and clarity of its applica tion” by law enforcement officials and courts. See Moran v. Burbine, 475 U. S. 412, 425–426 (1986). A key contribu tor to this clarity, at least up until now, has been Miranda’s objective reasonable-person test for determin ing custody.
Miranda’s custody requirement is based on the proposi tion that the risk of unconstitutional coercion is height ened when a suspect is placed under formal arrest or is subjected to some functionally equivalent limitation on freedom of movement. When this custodial threshold is reached, Miranda warnings must precede police question ing. But in the interest of simplicity, the custody analysis considers only whether, under the circumstances, a hypo thetical reasonable person would consider himself to be confined.
Many suspects, of course, will differ from this hypotheti cal reasonable person. Some, including those who have been hardened by past interrogations, may have no need for Miranda warnings at all. And for other suspects— those who are unusually sensitive to the pressures of police questioning—Miranda warnings may come too late to be of any use. That is a necessary consequence of Miranda’s rigid standards, but it does not mean that the constitutional rights of these especially sensitive suspects are left unprotected. A vulnerable defendant can still turn to the constitutional rule against actual coercion and contend that that his confession was extracted against his will.
Today’s decision shifts the Miranda custody determina tion from a one-size-fits-all reasonable-person test into an inquiry that must account for at least one individualized characteristic—age—that is thought to correlate with sus ceptibility to coercive pressures. Age, however, is in no way the only personal characteristic that may correlate with pliability, and in future cases the Court will be forced to choose between two unpalatable alternatives. It may choose to limit today’s decision by arbitrarily distinguish ing a suspect’s age from other personal characteristics— such as intelligence, education, occupation, or prior ex perience with law enforcement—that may also correlate with susceptibility to coercive pressures. Or, if the Court is unwilling to draw these arbitrary lines, it will be forced to effect a fundamental transformation of the Miranda custody test—from a clear, easily applied prophylactic rule into a highly fact-intensive standard resembling the voluntariness test that the Miranda Court found to be unsatisfactory.
For at least three reasons, there is no need to go down this road. First, many minors subjected to police interro gation are near the age of majority, and for these suspects the one-size-fits-all Miranda custody rule may not be a bad fit. Second, many of the difficulties in applying the Miranda custody rule to minors arise because of the unique circumstances present when the police conduct interrogations at school. The Miranda custody rule has always taken into account the setting in which question ing occurs, and accounting for the school setting in such cases will address many of these problems. Third, in cases like the one now before us, where the suspect is especially young, courts applying the constitutional voluntariness standard can take special care to ensure that incriminat ing statements were not obtained through coercion.
Safeguarding the constitutional rights of minors does not require the extreme makeover of Miranda that today’s decision may portend.
In the days before Miranda, this Court’s sole metric for evaluating the admissibility of confessions was a volun tariness standard rooted in both the Fifth Amendment’s Self-Incrimination Clause and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See Bram v. United States, 168 U. S. 532, 542 (1897) (Self-Incrimination Clause); Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U. S. 278 (1936) (due process). The question in these voluntariness cases was whether the particular “defendant’s will” had been “overborne.” Lynumn v. Illinois, 372 U. S. 528, 534 (1963). Courts took into account both “the details of the interrogation” and “the characteristics of the accused,” Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U. S. 218, 226 (1973), and then “weigh[ed] . . . the circumstances of pressure against the power of resis tance of the person confessing.” Stein v. New York, 346 U. S. 156, 185 (1953).
All manner of individualized, personal characteristics were relevant in this voluntariness inquiry. Among the most frequently mentioned factors were the defendant’s education, physical condition, intelligence, and mental health. Withrow v. Williams, 507 U. S. 680, 693 (1993); see Clewis v. Texas, 386 U. S. 707, 712 (1967) (“only a fifth-grade education”); Greenwald v. Wisconsin, 390 U. S. 519, 520–521 (1968) (per curiam) (had not taken blood pressure medication); Payne v. Arkansas, 356 U. S. 560, 562, n. 4, 567 (1958) (“mentally dull” and “ ‘slow to learn’ ”); Fikes v. Alabama, 352 U. S. 191, 193, 196, 198 (1957) (“low mentality, if not mentally ill”). The suspect’s age also received prominent attention in several cases, e.g., Gallegos v. Colorado, 370 U. S. 49, 54 (1962), especially when the suspect was a “mere child.” Haley v. Ohio, 332 U. S. 596, 599 (1948) (plurality opinion). The weight assigned to any one consideration varied from case to case. But all of these factors, along with anything else that might have affected the “individual’s . . . capacity for effective choice,” were relevant in determining whether the confession was coerced or compelled. See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436, 506–507 (1966) (Harlan, J., dissenting).
The all-encompassing nature of the voluntariness in quiry had its benefits. It allowed courts to accommodate a “complex of values,” Schneckloth, supra, at 223, 224, and to make a careful, highly individualized determination as to whether the police had wrung “a confession out of [the] accused against his will.” Blackburn v. Alabama, 361 U. S. 199, 206–207 (1960). But with this flexibility came a decrease in both certainty and predictability, and the voluntariness standard proved difficult “for law enforce ment officers to conform to, and for courts to apply in a consistent manner.” Dickerson v. United States, 530 U. S. 428, 444 (2000).
In Miranda, the Court supplemented the voluntariness inquiry with a “set of prophylactic measures” designed to ward off the “ ‘inherently compelling pressures’ of custodial interrogation.” See Maryland v. Shatzer, 559 U. S. __, __ (2010) (slip op., at 4) (quoting Miranda, 384 U. S., at 467). Miranda greatly simplified matters by requiring police to give suspects standard warnings before commencing any custodial interrogation. See id., at 479. Its requirements are no doubt “rigid,” see Fare v. Michael C., 439 U. S. 1310, 1314 (1978) (Rehnquist, J., in chambers), and they often require courts to suppress “trustworthy and highly probative” statements that may be perfectly “voluntary under [a] traditional Fifth Amendment analysis.” Fare v. Michael C., 442 U. S. 707, 718 (1979). But with this rigid ity comes increased clarity. Miranda provides “a worka ble rule to guide police officers,” New York v. Quarles, 467 U. S. 649, 658 (1984) (internal quotation marks omitted), and an administrable standard for the courts. As has often been recognized, this gain in clarity and administra bility is one of Miranda’s “principal advantages.” Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U. S. 420, 430 (1984); see also Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U. S. 600, 622 (2004) (KENNEDY, J., con curring in judgment).
No less than other facets of Miranda, the threshold requirement that the suspect be in “custody” is “designed to give clear guidance to the police.” Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U. S. 652, 668, 669 (2004). Custody under Miranda attaches where there is a “formal arrest” or a “restraint on freedom of movement” akin to formal arrest. California v. Beheler, 463 U. S. 1121, 1125 (1983) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks omitted). This stan dard is “objective” and turns on how a hypothetical “rea sonable person in the position of the individual being questioned would gauge the breadth of his or her freedom of action.” Stansbury v. California, 511 U. S. 318, 322– 323, 325 (1994) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Until today, the Court’s cases applying this test have focused solely on the “objective circumstances of the inter rogation,” id., at 323, not the personal characteristics of the interrogated. E.g., Berkemer, supra, at 442, and n. 35; but cf. Schneckloth, 412 U. S., at 226 (voluntariness in quiry requires consideration of “the details of the interro gation” and “the characteristics of the accused”). Relevant factors have included such things as where the question ing occurred,2 how long it lasted,3 what was said,4 any physical restraints placed on the suspect’s movement,5 and whether the suspect was allowed to leave when
The totality of these the questioning was through.6 circumstances—the external circumstances, that is, of the interrogation itself—is what has mattered in this Court’s cases. Personal characteristics of suspects have consis tently been rejected or ignored as irrelevant under a one size-fits-all reasonable-person standard. Stansbury, supra, at 323 (“[C]ustody depends on the objective circumstances of the interrogation, not on the subjective views harbored by either the interrogating officers or the person being questioned”).
For example, in Berkemer v. McCarty, supra, police officers conducting a traffic stop questioned a man who had been drinking and smoking marijuana before he was pulled over. Id., at 423. Although the suspect’s inebria tion was readily apparent to the officers at the scene, ibid., the Court’s analysis did not advert to this or any other individualized consideration. Instead, the Court focused only on the external circumstances of the interrogation itself. The opinion concluded that a typical “traffic stop” is akin to a “Terry stop”7 and does not qualify as the equiva lent of “formal arrest.” Id., at 439.
California v. Beheler, supra, is another useful example. There, the circumstances of the interrogation were “re markably similar” to the facts of the Court’s earlier deci sion in Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U. S. 492 (1977) (per curiam)—the suspect was “not placed under arrest,” he “voluntarily [came] to the police station,” and he was “allowed to leave unhindered by police after a brief inter view.” 463 U. S., at 1123, 1121. A California court in Beheler had nonetheless distinguished Mathiason because the police knew that Beheler “had been drinking earlier in the day” and was “emotionally distraught.” 463 U. S., at 1124–1125. In a summary reversal, this Court explained that the fact “[t]hat the police knew more” personal infor mation about Beheler than they did about Mathiason was “irrelevant.” Id., at 1125. Neither one of them was in custody under the objective reasonable-person standard. Ibid.; see also Alvarado, supra, at 668, 669 (experience with law enforcement irrelevant to Miranda custody analysis “as a de novo matter”).8
The glaring absence of reliance on personal characteris tics in these and other custody cases should come as no surprise. To account for such individualized considera tions would be to contradict Miranda’s central premise. The Miranda Court’s decision to adopt its inflexible pro phylactic requirements was expressly based on the notion that “[a]ssessments of the knowledge the defendant pos sessed, based on information as to his age, education, intelligence, or prior contact with authorities, can never be more than speculation.” 384 U. S., at 468–469.
In light of this established practice, there is no denying that, by incorporating age into its analysis, the Court is embarking on a new expansion of the established custody standard. And since Miranda is this Court’s rule, “not a constitutional command,” it is up to the Court “to justify its expansion.” Cf. Arizona v. Roberson, 486 U. S. 675, 688 (1988) (KENNEDY, J., dissenting). This the Court fails to do.
In its present form, Miranda’s prophylactic regime already imposes “high cost[s]” by requiring suppression of confessions that are often “highly probative” and “volun tary” by any traditional standard. Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U. S. 298, 312 (1985); see Dickerson, 530 U. S., at 444 (under Miranda “statements which may be by no means involuntary, made by a defendant who is aware of his ‘rights,’ may nonetheless be excluded and a guilty defen dant go free as a result”). Nonetheless, a “core virtue” of Miranda has been the clarity and precision of its guidance to “police and courts.” Withrow v. Williams, 507 U. S. 680, 694 (1993) (internal quotation marks omitted); see Moran, 475 U. S., at 425 (“[O]ne of the principal advantages of Miranda is the ease and clarity of its application” (inter nal quotation marks omitted)). This increased clarity “has been thought to outweigh the burdens” that Miranda imposes. Fare, 442 U. S., at 718. The Court has, however, repeatedly cautioned against upsetting the careful “bal ance” that Miranda struck, Moran, supra, at 424, and it has “refused to sanction attempts to expand [the] Miranda holding” in ways that would reduce its “clarity.” See Quarles, 467 U. S., at 658 (citing cases). Given this prac tice, there should be a “strong presumption” against the Court’s new departure from the established custody test. See United States v. Patane, 542 U. S. 630, 640 (2004) (plurality opinion). In my judgment, that presumption cannot be overcome here.
The Court’s rationale for importing age into the custody standard is that minors tend to lack adults’ “capacity to exercise mature judgment” and that failing to account for that “reality” will leave some minors unprotected under Miranda in situations where they perceive themselves to be confined. See ante, at 10, 8. I do not dispute that many suspects who are under 18 will be more susceptible to police pressure than the average adult. As the Court notes, our pre-Miranda cases were particularly attuned to this “reality” in applying the constitutional requirement of voluntariness in fact. Ante, at 9 (relying on Haley, 332 U. S., at 599 (plurality opinion), and Gallegos, 370 U. S., at 54). It is no less a “reality,” however, that many per sons over the age of 18 are also more susceptible to police pressure than the hypothetical reasonable person. See Payne, 356 U. S., at 567 (fact that defendant was a “men tally dull 19-year-old youth” relevant in voluntariness inquiry). Yet the Miranda custody standard has never accounted for the personal characteristics of these or any other individual defendants.
Indeed, it has always been the case under Miranda that the unusually meek or compliant are subject to the same fixed rules, including the same custody requirement, as those who are unusually resistant to police pressure. Berkemer, 468 U. S., at 442, and n. 35 (“[O]nly relevant inquiry is how a reasonable man in the suspect’s position would have understood his situation”). Miranda’s rigid standards are both overinclusive and underinclusive. They are overinclusive to the extent that they provide a windfall to the most hardened and savvy of suspects, who often have no need for Miranda’s protections. Compare Miranda, supra, at 471–472 (“[N]o amount of circumstan tial evidence that the person may have been aware of ” his rights can overcome Miranda’s requirements), with Orozco v. Texas, 394 U. S. 324, 329 (1969) (White, J., dissenting) (“Where the defendant himself [w]as a lawyer, policeman, professional criminal, or otherwise has become aware of what his right to silence is, it is sheer fancy to assert that his answer to every question asked him is compelled unless he is advised of those rights with which he is al ready intimately familiar”). And Miranda’s requirements are underinclusive to the extent that they fail to account for “frailties,” “idiosyncrasies,” and other individualized considerations that might cause a person to bend more easily during a confrontation with the police. See Alvarado, 541 U. S., at 662 (internal quotation marks omitted). Members of this Court have seen this rigidity as a major weakness in Miranda’s “code of rules for confessions.” See 384 U. S., at 504 (Harlan, J., dissenting); Fare, 439 U. S., at 1314 (Rehnquist, J., in chambers) (“[T]he rigidity of [Miranda’s] prophylactic rules was a principal weakness in the view of dissenters and critics outside the Court”). But if it is, then the weakness is an inescapable conse quence of the Miranda Court’s decision to supplement the more holistic voluntariness requirement with a one-size fits-all prophylactic rule.
That is undoubtedly why this Court’s Miranda cases have never before mentioned “the suspect’s age” or any other individualized consideration in applying the custody standard. See Alvarado, supra, at 666. And unless the Miranda custody rule is now to be radically transformed into one that takes into account the wide range of individ ual characteristics that are relevant in determining whether a confession is voluntary, the Court must shoul der the burden of explaining why age is different from these other personal characteristics.
Why, for example, is age different from intelligence? Suppose that an officer, upon going to a school to question a student, is told by the principal that the student has an I. Q. of 75 and is in a special-education class. Cf. In re J. D. B., 363 N. C. 664, 666, 686 S. E. 2d 135, 136–137 (2009). Are those facts more or less important than the student’s age in determining whether he or she “felt . . . at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave”? See Thompson v. Keohane, 516 U. S. 99, 112 (1995). An I. Q. score, like age, is more than just a number. Ante, at 8 (“[A]ge is far ‘more than a chronological fact’ ”). And an individual’s intelligence can also yield “conclusions” simi lar to those “we have drawn ourselves” in cases far afield of Miranda. Ante, at 12. Compare ibid. (relying on Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U. S. 104 (1982), and Roper v. Simmons, 543 U. S. 551 (2005)), with Smith v. Texas, 543 U. S. 37, 44–45 (2004) (per curiam).
How about the suspect’s cultural background? Suppose the police learn (or should have learned, see ante, at 11) that a suspect they wish to question is a recent immigrant from a country in which dire consequences often befall any person who dares to attempt to cut short any meeting with the police.9 Is this really less relevant than the fact that a suspect is a month or so away from his 18th birthday?
The defendant’s education is another personal charac teristic that may generate “conclusions about behavior and perception.” Ante, at 9 (internal quotation marks omit ted). Under today’s decision, why should police officers and courts “blind themselves,” ante, at 1, to the fact that a suspect has “only a fifth-grade education”? See Clewis, 386 U. S., at 712 (voluntariness case). Alternatively, what if the police know or should know that the suspect is “a college-educated man with law school training”? See Crooker v. California, 357 U. S. 433, 440 (1958), overruled by Miranda, supra, at 479, and n. 48. How are these individual considerations meaningfully different from age in their “relationship to a reasonable person’s understand ing of his freedom of action”? Ante, at 11. The Court proclaims that “[a] child’s age . . . is different,” ante, at 12, but the basis for this ipse dixit is dubious.
I have little doubt that today’s decision will soon be cited by defendants—and perhaps by prosecutors as well—for the proposition that all manner of other individual charac teristics should be treated like age and taken into account in the Miranda custody calculus. Indeed, there are al ready lower court decisions that take this approach. See United States v. Beraun-Panez, 812 F. 2d 578, 581, modi fied 830 F. 2d 127 (CA9 1987) (“reasonable person who was an alien”); In re Jorge D., 202 Ariz. 277, 280, 43 P. 3d 605, 608 (App. 2002) (age, maturity, and experience); State v. Doe, 130 Idaho 811, 818, 948 P. 2d 166, 173 (1997) (same); In re Joshua David C., 116 Md. App. 580, 594, 698 A. 2d 1155, 1162 (1997) (“education, age, and intelligence”).
In time, the Court will have to confront these issues, and it will be faced with a difficult choice. It may choose to distinguish today’s decision and adhere to the arbitrary proclamation that “age . . . is different.” Ante, at 12. Or it may choose to extend today’s holding and, in doing so, further undermine the very rationale for the Miranda regime. B
If the Court chooses the latter course, then a core virtue of Miranda—the “ease and clarity of its application”—will be lost. Moran, 475 U. S., at 425; see Fare, 442 U. S., at 718 (noting that the clarity of Miranda’s requirements “has been thought to outweigh the burdens that the deci sion . . . imposes”). However, even today’s more limited departure from Miranda’s one-size-fits-all reasonable person test will produce the very consequences that prompted the Miranda Court to abandon exclusive reli ance on the voluntariness test in the first place: The Court’s test will be hard for the police to follow, and it will be hard for judges to apply. See Dickerson v. United States, 530 U. S. 428, 444 (2000).
The Court holds that age must be taken into account when it “was known to the officer at the time of the inter view,” or when it “would have been objectively apparent” to a reasonable officer. Ante, at 11. The first half of this test overturns the rule that the “initial determination of custody” does not depend on the “subjective views har bored by . . . interrogating officers.” Stansbury, 511 U. S., at 323. The second half will generate time-consuming satellite litigation over a reasonable officer’s perceptions. When, as here, the interrogation takes place in school, the inquiry may be relatively simple. But not all police ques tioning of minors takes place in schools. In many cases, courts will presumably have to make findings as to whether a particular suspect had a sufficiently youthful look to alert a reasonable officer to the possibility that the suspect was under 18, or whether a reasonable officer would have recognized that a suspect’s I. D. was a fake. The inquiry will be both “time-consuming and disruptive” for the police and the courts. See Berkemer, 468 U. S., at 432 (refusing to modify the custody test based on similar considerations). It will also be made all the more compli cated by the fact that a suspect’s dress and manner will often be different when the issue is litigated in court than it was at the time of the interrogation.
Even after courts clear this initial hurdle, further prob lems will likely emerge as judges attempt to put them selves in the shoes of the average 16-year-old, or 15-year old, or 13-year-old, as the case may be. Consider, for example, a 60-year-old judge attempting to make a cus tody determination through the eyes of a hypothetical, average 15-year-old. Forty-five years of personal experi ence and societal change separate this judge from the days when he or she was 15 years old. And this judge may or may not have been an average 15-year-old. The Court’s answer to these difficulties is to state that “no imaginative powers, knowledge of developmental psychology, [or] training in cognitive science” will be necessary. Ante, at 17. Judges “simply need the common sense,” the Court assures, “to know that a 7-year-old is not a 13-year-old and neither is an adult.” Ante, at 17. It is obvious, how ever, that application of the Court’s new rule demands much more than this.
Take a fairly typical case in which today’s holding may make a difference. A 16½-year-old moves to suppress incriminating statements made prior to the administra tion of Miranda warnings. The circumstances are such that, if the defendant were at least 18, the court would not find that he or she was in custody, but the defendant argues that a reasonable 16½-year-old would view the situation differently. The judge will not have the luxury of merely saying: “It is common sense that a 16½-year-old is not an 18-year-old. Motion granted.” Rather, the judge will be required to determine whether the differences between a typical 16½-year-old and a typical 18-year-old with respect to susceptibility to the pressures of interroga tion are sufficient to change the outcome of the custody determination. Today’s opinion contains not a word of actual guidance as to how judges are supposed to go about making that determination.
Petitioner and the Court attempt to show that this task is not unmanageable by pointing out that age is taken into account in other legal contexts. In particular, the Court relies on the fact that the age of a defendant is a relevant factor under the reasonable-person standard applicable in negligence suits. Ante, at 11 (citing Restatement (Third) of Torts §10, Comment b, p. 117 (2005)). But negligence is generally a question for the jury, the members of which can draw on their varied experiences with persons of different ages. It also involves a post hoc determination, in the reflective atmosphere of a deliberation room, about whether the defendant conformed to a standard of care. The Miranda custody determination, by contrast, must be made in the first instance by police officers in the course of an investigation that may require quick decisionmaking. See Quarles, 467 U. S., at 658 (noting “the importance” under Miranda of providing “a workable rule ‘to guide police officers, who have only limited time and expertise to reflect on and balance the social and individual interests involved in the specific circumstances they confront’ ”); Alvarado, 541 U. S., at 668, 669 (“[T]he custody inquiry states an objective rule designed to give clear guidance to the police”).
Equally inapposite are the Eighth Amendment cases the Court cites in support of its new rule. Ante, at 9, 11, 12 (citing Eddings, 455 U. S. 104, Roper, 543 U. S. 551, and Graham v. Florida, 560 U. S. ___ (2010)). Those decisions involve the “judicial exercise of independent judgment” about the constitutionality of certain punishments. E.g., id., at ___ (slip op., at 16). Like the negligence standard, they do not require on-the-spot judgments by the police.
Nor do state laws affording extra protection for juveniles during custodial interrogation provide any support for petitioner’s arguments. See Brief for Petitioner 16–17. States are free to enact additional restrictions on the police over and above those demanded by the Constitution or Miranda. In addition, these state statutes generally create clear, workable rules to guide police conduct. See Brief for Petitioner 16–17 (citing statutes that require or permit parents to be present during custodial interroga tion of a minor, that require minors to be advised of a statutory right to communicate with a parent or guardian, and that require parental consent to custodial interroga tion). Today’s decision, by contrast, injects a new, compli cating factor into what had been a clear, easily applied prophylactic rule. See Alvarado, supra, at 668–669.10
The Court’s decision greatly diminishes the clarity and administrability that have long been recognized as “prin cipal advantages” of Miranda’s prophylactic requirements. See, e.g., Moran, 475 U. S., at 425. But what is worse, the Court takes this step unnecessarily, as there are other, less disruptive tools available to ensure that minors are not coerced into confessing.
As an initial matter, the difficulties that the Court’s standard introduces will likely yield little added protection for most juvenile defendants. Most juveniles who are subjected to police interrogation are teenagers nearing the age of majority.11 These defendants’ reactions to police pressure are unlikely to be much different from the reac tion of a typical 18-year-old in similar circumstances. A one-size-fits-all Miranda custody rule thus provides a roughly reasonable fit for these defendants.
In addition, many of the concerns that petitioner raises regarding the application of the Miranda custody rule to minors can be accommodated by considering the unique circumstances present when minors are questioned in school. See Brief for Petitioner 10–11 (reciting at length the factors petitioner believes to be relevant to the custody determination here, including the fact that petitioner was removed from class by a police officer, that the interview took place in a school conference room, and that a uni formed officer and a vice principal were present). The Miranda custody rule has always taken into account the setting in which questioning occurs, restrictions on a suspect’s freedom of movement, and the presence of police officers or other authority figures. See Alvarado, supra, at 665; Maryland v. Shatzer, 559 U. S. ___, ___ (2010) (slip op., at 14). It can do so here as well.12
Finally, in cases like the one now before us, where the suspect is much younger than the typical juvenile defen dant, courts should be instructed to take particular care to ensure that incriminating statements were not obtained involuntarily. The voluntariness inquiry is flexible and accommodating by nature, see Schneckloth,i> 412 U. S., at 224, and the Court’s precedents already make clear that “special care” must be exercised in applying the voluntari ness test where the confession of a “mere child” is at issue. Haley, 332 U. S., at 599 (plurality opinion). If Miranda’s rigid, one-size-fits-all standards fail to account for the unique needs of juveniles, the response should be to rigor ously apply the constitutional rule against coercion to ensure that the rights of minors are protected. There is no need to run Miranda off the rails.
* * *
The Court rests its decision to inject personal character istics into the Miranda custody inquiry on the principle that judges applying Miranda cannot “blind themselves to . . . commonsense reality.” Ante, at 1, 8, 10–11, 14. But the Court’s shift is fundamentally at odds with the clear prophylactic rules that Miranda has long enforced. Miranda frequently requires judges to blind themselves to the reality that many un-Mirandized custodial confessions are “by no means involuntary” or coerced. Dickerson, 530 U. S., at 444. It also requires police to provide a rote recitation of Miranda warnings that many suspects al ready know and could likely recite from memory.13 Under today’s new, “reality”-based approach to the doctrine, perhaps these and other principles of our Miranda juris prudence will, like the custody standard, now be ripe for modification. Then, bit by bit, Miranda will lose the clar ity and ease of application that has long been viewed as one of its chief justifications.
I respectfully dissent.
1 See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436 (1966).
2Maryland v. Shatzer, 559 U. S. ___, ___ (2010) (slip op., at 13–16).
3Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U. S. 420, 437–438 (1984).
4Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U. S. 492, 495 (1977) (per curiam).
5New York v. Quarles, 467 U. S. 649, 655 (1984).
6California v. Beheler, 463 U. S. 1121, 1122–1123 (1983) (per curiam).
7 See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1 (1968).
8 The Court claims that “[n]ot once” have any of our cases “excluded from the custody analysis a circumstance that we determined was relevant and objective, simply to make the fault line between custodial and noncustodial ‘brighter.’ ” Ante, at 17. Surely this is incorrect. The very act of adopting a reasonable-person test necessarily excludes all sorts of “relevant and objective” circumstances—for example, all the objective circumstances of a suspect’s life history—that might otherwise bear on a custody determination.
9 Cf. United States v. Chalan, 812 F. 2d 1302, 1307 (CA10 1987) (re jecting claim that Native American suspect was “in custody” for Miranda purposes because, by custom, obedience to tribal authorities was “expected of all tribal members”).
10 The Court also relies on North Carolina’s concession at oral argu ment that a court could take into account a suspect’s blindness as a factor relevant to the Miranda custody determination. Ante, at 15, and n. 9. This is a far-fetched hypothetical, and neither the parties nor their amici cite any case in which such a problem has actually arisen. Presumably such a case would involve a situation in which a blind defendant was given “a typed document advising him that he [was] free to leave.” See Brief for Juvenile Law Center as Amicus Curiae 23. In such a case, furnishing this advice in a form calculated to be unintelli gible to the suspect would be tantamount to failing to provide the advice at all. And advice by the police that a suspect is or is not free to leave at will has always been regarded as a circumstance regarding the conditions of the interrogation that must be taken into account in making the Miranda custody determination.
11 See Dept of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2008 Crime in the United States (Sept. 2009), online at http://www2.fbi.gov/ ucr/cius2008/data/table_38.html (all Internet materials as visited June 8, 2011, and available in Clerk of Court’s case file) (indicating that less than 30% of juvenile arrests in the United States are of suspects who are under 15).
12 The Court thinks it would be “absur[d]” to consider the school set ting without accounting for age, ante, at 12, but the real absurdity is for the Court to require police officers to get inside the head of a reasonable minor while making the quick, on-the-spot determinations that Miranda demands.
13 Surveys have shown that “[l]arge majorities” of the public are aware that “individuals arrested for a crime” have a right to “remai[n] silent (81%),” a right to “a lawyer (95%),” and a right to have a lawyer “ap pointed” if the arrestee “cannot afford one (88%).” See Belden, Russonello & Stewart, Developing a National Message for Indigent Defense: Analy sis of National Survey 4 (Oct. 2001), online at http://www.nlada.org/ DMS/Documents/1211996548.53/Polling%20results%20report.pdf.
ORAL ARGUMENT OF BARBARA S. BLACKMAN ON BEHALF OF THE PETITIONER
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: We will hear argument next in Case 09-11121, J.D.B. v. North Carolina.
Ms Blackman: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
J.D.B. was only 13 years old when he was taken out of his middle school classroom and escorted to a closed door interrogation conducted by outside law enforcement regarding a matter that did not take place on school property.
He was isolated from his family who had already demonstrated an interest in this investigation and sought to shield him from the police.
He was not advised that he was free to leave or free not to answer questions until he had already incriminated himself.
The restrictions on J.D.B.'s freedom of movement which existed because of his youth were heightened by the manner in which this officer chose to conduct this interrogation and the expected deference to authority figures categorically characteristic of children were taken advantage of by the manner in which this officer chose to conduct the interrogation.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Ms. Blackman, I'm -- I'm -- I'm not clear on what you are proposing.
Is there to be one different Miranda requirement rule for all minors, or is there to be one for, what, 20-year-olds, 19-year-olds, 18-year-olds, 17, 16?
This one is 13, do we calibrate it that finely--
Ms Blackman: Justice--
Justice Antonin Scalia: --or do we just say, you know, what would a minor -- I don't know, a general minor regard as restrictions upon his departure?
Ms Blackman: --Justice Scalia, what we are proposing is that the test be a court may consider age in determining whether a reasonable person in the juvenile--
Justice Antonin Scalia: I understand that.
Ms Blackman: --So we are not--
Justice Antonin Scalia: So you mean 15, 14, 13, 13 1/2?
Ms Blackman: --We did not suggest that it be calibrated by age, although in State court jurisdictions many of them are and are not finding that a difficult test to perform.
Justice Antonin Scalia: It's not -- if not calibrated by age, how is it to be calibrated?
Ms Blackman: It is to be the exercise of reasonable judgment by the judge taking into account common sense--
Justice Antonin Scalia: Common sense?
Ms Blackman: --community experience is one.
Justice Antonin Scalia: And -- and -- and how -- how is the law enforcement officer going into the confrontation going to know whether a judge is going to be applying a 15-year-old rule, a 13-year-old rule, or whatever?
Ms Blackman: Clearly in the jurisdiction in which he practices he should be aware of the fact that a court utilizes that type of--
Justice Antonin Scalia: Do you think that's clear?
Ms Blackman: --But we're not suggesting that that be done.
What a court is examining is--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: Why isn't this all subsumed under the voluntariness rule?
Ms Blackman: --As this Court has frequently recognized, the voluntariness inquiry is more difficult for courts to perform than the Miranda custody one.
And you have also recognized that the court--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: Well, at least it's the court performing it, not the interrogating officer, as Justice Scalia's questions point out.
Ms Blackman: --The police officer plays a role in the voluntariness, also.
And the police officer must be assessing whether the circumstances may be giving rise to an involuntary confession.
Justice Antonin Scalia: What about mental deficiency, if -- if age should be one of the factors, deciding whether the individual regarded himself as in custody or not, why shouldn't mental deficiency be so as well?
Is there any -- any basis in principle for not -- I mean, once you do this, don't you, in effect, say that it is a subjective inquiry whether the particular individual regarded him or herself as being in custody; isn't that the -- the basis of what you're arguing?
Ms Blackman: --No.
Justice Antonin Scalia: No?
Why is age different from mental deficiency, for example?
Ms Blackman: Age is different because, number one, it involves restrictions on freedom of movement, so the circumstances of the interrogation are going to be understood and interpreted differently by a child than it would be by an adult.
Secondly, we're talking about cognitive differences which exist between children and adults which affects their perception and understanding.
Justice Antonin Scalia: You could say both of those things about the mentally deficient.
They may regard themselves as -- as unfree to leave, and they have cognitive deficiencies.
Ms Blackman: As far as I know, there hasn't been the recognition in the law that there is, as to children, that proves such as the mentally handicapped are unable to--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Well, what about this test which comes from three cases, the first being Berkemer, the second Stansbury, and the third I'll tell you in a second?
It is that those -- what are -- in considering a reasonable person for this purpose and avoiding subjective states of mind, you would look at objective circumstances, known to both the officer and the suspect that are likely relevant to the way a person would understand his situation.
So both would be both mental illness and age and -- I don't know, whether you speak English, and a lot of other things would be relevant, provided they are things that are relevant to how a person would understand his situation and are known to both the officer and the individual.
The third case, of course, is my dissent in Alvarez.
But nothing in the majority conflicts with that, that I can see, except the holding.
I thought I lost the case, but apparently it's up again, so I don't see why that isn't a perfectly good test.
But if you're not going to support it, then I've got no support.
Ms Blackman: --Well, we're simply making the point that there's not necessarily going to be a floodgate opening.
And we haven't seen that--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: No, no, but I mean what Justice Scalia was really asking is, do you favor something like this test that I read, which is open as to circumstance?
Anything could fit in that blank, as long as both policemen and the -- and the individual know it and it is relevant as to how he understands the circumstance, whether he's likely free to go or not.
Ms Blackman: --Conceptually absolutely.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Thank you.
Yes, that's right.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Even -- even if you said no, you're pushing us there, because there's no basis for treating a childhood any differently from these other factors.
So basically you're saying Justice Breyer would call it objective circumstances.
You know, whether you're mentally deficient, I would call that the subjective condition of the -- of the person being held in custody.
And I think, I don't think that's what we meant by the phrase "objective circumstances".
But you want objective circumstances to include the character of the person being held in custody, whether he's mentally deficient, whether he's schizophrenic, known to the police, you know, whatever factors, right?
Those are all objective circumstances?
Ms Blackman: Your Honor, what we are talking about are a complex of characteristics which are unique to children, and that's what we are examining in this case.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Ms. Blackman, what is complex about a juvenile investigator?
That's what this police officer was.
So he's investigating a juvenile for juvenile justice purposes, and I think there's hardly anything more objective than that.
This case has child written all over it.
It's investigator who deals with children.
The first proceedings is going to be a juvenile proceeding.
How can you not take that into account, whatever -- whatever these other factors may involve?
But here it seems to me so rampant because this police officer dealt only with juveniles, and he investigated juveniles.
Ms Blackman: I agree completely.
This officer was assigned the case because it had already been determined that a juvenile was involved.
This is the population that he deals with on a daily basis.
He certainly has a basis on which to assess how J.D.B.'s youth was factoring into this interrogation.
Justice Anthony Kennedy: And then is it your point that he has to do something more than the read the standard Miranda warning?
Suppose he read the standard Miranda warning?
End of case as far as you're concerned?
Ms Blackman: Obviously his age would factor into whether there was a valid waiver.
But, yes, he has got to Mirandize or otherwise J.D.B.--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: Well, but doesn't it follow from there that we have to have a -- we have to change the warning?
Ms Blackman: --Not necessarily.
I mean, some children will not understand Miranda warnings, just as some adults don't understand Miranda warnings.
But children are nonetheless -- have to be given the opportunity to be told of their rights, so that they can at least have the opportunity to make an informed decision.
Justice Samuel Alito: Are you asking trial judges to make -- to do something that is realistic?
Do you think -- let's take a hypothetical trial judge who, let's say, is 60 years old and has an IQ of -- that's at least an average IQ.
And now you're asking this trial judge to decide whether under particular circumstances, let's say, a 14-year-old with an IQ of 85 would appreciate under particular circumstances that he or she was free to leave?
Ms Blackman: Your Honor--
Justice Samuel Alito: You think a trial judge can really do that?
Ms Blackman: --State courts have been performing this analysis now for several decades, and they haven't indicated that they have difficulty doing so.
And to the extent that your--
Justice Samuel Alito: They must have greater imaginative powers then.
Ms Blackman: --What?
Justice Samuel Alito: They must have greater imaginative powers than I think I would have under those circumstances.
Ms Blackman: Part of your question--
Justice Samuel Alito: When you take a particular set of circumstances, and the judge would say, if I were 13, I would not understand that I could go.
However, if I were 15, I would understand I could go.
Ms Blackman: --Your Honor--
Justice Samuel Alito: Can you slice it like that?
Ms Blackman: --What we are talking about here is relative youngness and relative oldness.
I mean, the empirical data demonstrates to us that the older a child is to an adult, the more adult-like they are.
The younger, the farther away they are from that adult standard--
Justice Antonin Scalia: We need empirical data for that?
Ms Blackman: --Excuse me?
Justice Antonin Scalia: We need empirical data for that?
Ms Blackman: Empirical data does exist.
Justice Antonin Scalia: To show that--
Ms Blackman: I'm simply pointing that out.
Justice Antonin Scalia: --the closer to adulthood a child is, the more like an adult he is?
Ms Blackman: I'm simply pointing out that the empirical data supports that.
There are bases of knowledge from which--
Justice Elena Kagan: Do we need either imaginative powers or empirical data to know that when a 13-year-old is brought into a room in his school, taken out of class, four people are there, two are police officers, one is assistant principal, threatened with custody, that that person is not going to feel free to take off and leave?
Ms Blackman: --We do not.
I'm simply pointing out that there is a basis of knowledge from which courts as well as police officers can make the required assessment.
It is so clear in this case, however--
Justice Samuel Alito: Well, sympathetic cases can make bad law.
So take the same set of facts and let's hypothesize that this is a 15-year-old.
Would the 15-year-old appreciate that he could go?
Or make him 16.
Or make him a street-wise 17-year-old.
Ms Blackman: --A judge should be able to consider that, and under the clear circumstances of this case, it is unlikely that a--
Justice Antonin Scalia: When the policeman sees him, he's dressed in baggy jeans, you know, down around his thighs, and when the judge sees him he's wearing a Buster Brown jumper suit.
You don't really think that it's going to be equivalent?
Ms Blackman: --I'm not sure I understood the question.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: The whole point--
Ms Blackman: Yes.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: --The whole point of the Miranda rule, I thought, was to provide clear, objective guidelines about what the police are supposed to do.
And it seems to me that one of the difficulties with your rule, however clear it may seem in this case, but it does have to apply more broadly, is that that's off the table, and now they're not only going to have to know, does this person understand it, but they're going to have to know, it's not every one of these situations that's going to be in school.
They're going to have to guess how old the person is.
And there are differences.
Some 15-year-olds know a lot more than some 17-year-olds, and so on.
And -- and the facts that you're concerned about all go into the voluntariness inquiry, which is still pertinent after Miranda.
Why don't we just put those facts into that inquiry and say, look, we've got one strict rule; everybody knows it, you hear it on TV all the time, people are given Miranda warnings; that part of it is done?
Ms Blackman: It doesn't change the rule itself.
I mean, the rule itself remains: All objective circumstances relevant to the custody determination must be considered.
What it's doing is taking this out of the reasonable adult standard, which by default is the only one, then, that can be used, and so it's not going to be muddying the waters in the sense that it is something needed in order to promote accurate fact-finding.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Would it be -- is it enough if the officers in this situation said, look, you're free to leave, you know, whenever you want, but -- and then goes on -- or do they have to think -- now, maybe -- maybe a 13-year-old really doesn't think that's true, or maybe a 13-year-old really doesn't feel that he can leave if he's got the vice principal there and they want to talk.
Ms Blackman: I mean, that is an objective circumstance that occurs in the course of an interrogation which is very weighty in determining if custody occurs.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: I'm thinking it would not even be enough if they told the 13-year-old, look, you can leave, but I want to ask you some questions.
And the principal is there, and he thinks, well, you know -- maybe the 13-year-old is thinking, maybe I'm going to get in trouble if I leave.
Ms Blackman: --It involves all of the circumstances which are arising during the course of these interrogations, but certainly advising someone that they are free to leave and advising them that they are free not to answer questions is almost half of the Miranda warning, and it is giving the child--
Justice Antonin Scalia: What if the parent tells them not to leave?
What if the parent says, you go and talk to this police officer?
If you did something wrong, I want them to know about it; talk to the officer.
Ms Blackman: --Whether that would factor in depends, I think, upon whether they're acting as an agent of the police, because what we're looking at is--
Justice Antonin Scalia: No, no.
They're not an agent; they're acting as a parent.
Ms Blackman: --Oh.
What we're examining is whether we've got a police-dominated environment and coercion in the situation and circumstances under which the child evaluates the--
Justice Antonin Scalia: Are you answering my question?
Ms Blackman: --No, I'm not.
Obviously, the specific factors that occur in the course of any interrogation will be considered, but our focus here is upon what the police officer must do.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Would be one relevant factor that would be considered was that nobody called the parents?
Ms Blackman: It is relevant in this situation, because -- by North Carolina law.
Because a custodial interrogation was occurring, there was a requirement that a parent or guardian be present.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: How is that relevant to the Miranda inquiry?
It might be relevant to the voluntariness inquiry, but I don't see whether you call the parents or not.
Part of his Miranda -- your Miranda right is not to have your parents called.
Ms Blackman: What I understood the question was: Was it relevant that a parent was not contacted?
In this particular situation, yes, because that was going to create an independent basis on which the statement wasn't going to be admitted, and is than additional reason why--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Independent of what?
Ms Blackman: --Independent of Miranda.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Well, right.
That's my whole point.
Ms Blackman: But that is an additional reason why police officers need to be aware of what the age is of a child that they are interrogating because of independent obligations arising out of State statutes.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: So is your answer to Justice Ginsburg that, no, the fact that a parent was not notified is not relevant to the Miranda question?
It may be relevant to the voluntariness question.
Ms Blackman: No, I believe it remains relevant to the Miranda question, because--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The question really is if he is in custody.
And maybe there's something different about being in the room with a juvenile police investigator and the assistant principal and being in that same room with your parents there.
Ms Blackman: --That is correct.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Oh, so it's not just that they have to call the parent; they have to wait for the parent to show up?
Ms Blackman: Because of State statutory requirements, here they were.
Obviously, not every State has that kind of requirement.
In this particular situation, there was a requirement of parental presence.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: That's not -- that's not pertinent to the Federal law question on the Miranda warnings.
Ms Blackman: I understand that, but I'm just explaining that independent bases may arise for which an officer has to be aware of the age.
And given that, we're not imposing additional burdens.
These are things that police officers have to be considering.
Justice Samuel Alito: What if the age of the person being questioned is unclear?
Ms Blackman: If the interrogation is occurring under circumstances where the officer should have known, then I think the burden remains with the officer to consider this, and that could arise from--
Justice Samuel Alito: Suppose -- suppose the person shows an ID and it shows the person is 19 years old, and the officer looks at him and says, he looks like a pretty young 19-year-old?
Ms Blackman: --If there is no way to verify the information that the child is giving, then the officer accepts the ID as being the age of the person he is interrogating.
Justice Samuel Alito: What if -- I mean, under my example, what if the child -- what if the person looks like a minor but has an adult ID?
Ms Blackman: I think that if--
Justice Samuel Alito: Does the officer have an obligation to look behind that?
Ms Blackman: --Um--
Justice Samuel Alito: Or the other way around?
The person says, I'm 15, and the officer sees that this person has a pretty heavy beard and--
Ms Blackman: --The officer has to proceed on the basis of his observations.
I mean, objective circumstances are things that are readily apparent.
There can be circumstances which tell the officer that, in fact, he is dealing with a child, either the setting, the appearance, the contact of parents, and so on.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Is there a good faith--
Ms Blackman: But if there -- if there is no reasonable basis upon which the officer could discern that this is a child, if he has no reason to know, then the rule that we are asking to be put into effect would not apply.
Justice Antonin Scalia: --Does a good faith mistake make it okay?
If, you know, the officer, in good faith, believes that it's not a minor and -- and proceeds accordingly?
Ms Blackman: Yes.
I mean, what we would be assessing is: Are the circumstances clear such that the officer should have known?
And if they simply could not ascertain it, then the rule that we're asking for would not apply.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The way you phrase the question, you say, may the trial -- whether trial courts may consider the juvenile's age in Miranda to make the in-custody Miranda determination.
Did you really mean "may", so it's discretionary with each judge, whether a juvenile's age is relevant to the in-custody analysis?
Ms Blackman: No, it is must.
As with any objective circumstance, the court has to take it into account, and we can't be relegating some to a discretionary review and others to mandatory review.
So, yes, if a child is involved in the case, then a court must take that into account--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: So--
Ms Blackman: --in determining if there's custody.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --are you saying, going back to the hypotheticals that some of my colleagues posed, police officer comes across an individual, looks older or looks younger, doesn't know, and just engages that person and says come over here and let's talk for a second.
Is the officer required to ask the age?
Ms Blackman: It's a simple enough matter, but no.
But I think if the person--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: So if they're not required--
Ms Blackman: --as a Terry stop, where Miranda is not coming into play at all--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --Perhaps not, but it's -- if it's outside a school, school corner.
No reasonable suspicion, just says come over here, kid.
Is he supposed to ask the age to see if he's 19 or 18 or 17?
Ms Blackman: --We're not in a custodial interrogation setting, I think in your question, and so Miranda is not coming into play at all, but I mean, this is a matter--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: It is, because it's a stop with no reasonable suspicion.
And the kid comes over, and the officer stands him there and continues to talk to him for half an hour.
Ms Blackman: --If there is a custodial -- if we have restraint on freedom of movement which is rising to the degree of a formal arrest, it's a simple enough matter to ask.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: So why don't we go back to the test that Justice Breyer suggested, which would answer many of the hypotheticals here, that the objective fact is what is known to both?
Ms Blackman: What is known to both.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: That way you don't get into what the 13-year-old is thinking inside himself or not, because that then becomes subjective; you don't go back to what others might think are special characteristics or subjective characteristics.
You go to what's known, what's an objective factor known to both.
Ms Blackman: Yes.
But I think that we can't be encouraging willful blindness, either; and so, you know, if an officer encounters someone at a facility where only children would be, for example, like an elementary school or a juvenile detention facility--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: I think that's clear, but that's different.
I mean, you can tell the difference between a 9-year-old, I think, and an adult generally.
Ms Blackman: --Indeed.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: And I'm hard pressed to think that anyone would believe that if you took a 9-year-old out of his classroom and the assistant principal walked him into a room and said these guys want to talk to you, that that 9-year-old would think he's free to leave.
Ms Blackman: I agree.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Right.
So objectively that's a fact known to everyone, that it's a 9-year-old.
Ms Blackman: Correct.
I did -- there have been a lot of questions that sort of presupposed that we are doing a subjective inquiry, and I think nothing could be farther from the case.
What we are not doing--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: I guess part of my problem is it's just in some respects hard to put the Miranda in the context of a -- let's say a 13-year-old alone.
It may be that Miranda warnings,
"You have a right to remain silent, anything you say can be used against you. "
--might terrify the kid just to hear about it.
I'm just wondering how the Miranda warning works here anyway.
The school is in loco parentis, it has certain -- it has obligations and privileges with respect to the student.
Ms Blackman: --Well, Miranda is the only procedure to date that anyone uses, and constitutionally they are -- everyone is entitled to some advisement so that they can make an informed choice.
I mean, whether there should be a more simplified or different Miranda warning for children is an issue for another day, but we can't simply say we're not going to do anything.
We are not going to tell these children that they don't have to cooperate with the State in building a case against themselves.
Justice Samuel Alito: --Could I go back to an earlier question?
Is it your argument that age is the only objective individual characteristic of the person being questioned that must be taken into account, or are there other objective characteristics of people being questioned who -- that fall into the same category?
Ms Blackman: I think that one's status as an inmate, for example, can be characterized as objective, and certainly that has been taken into account because inmates share that same baseline restriction on freedom of movement that children do, and so this court in -- Shafter -- for example, characterized it as what would the reasonable person in the inmate's position have understood as to his freedom of movement.
So, yes, I mean, there can be other objective circumstances individual to the person, but we're still not answering a subjective--
Justice Samuel Alito: But what are they?
I don't want to use up your rebuttal time, but what -- what are they in addition to age?
For people who are not institutionalized or in school or in an environment like that?
What falls into the same category as age?
Ms Blackman: --I think that's for other litigants to press upon this Court upon proper records with input from experts as to whether it relates to the special susceptibilities of children, how cognitively different they are which is affecting their perception and judgment of what's going on about them, and those are questions for another day.
If there are no other questions, I would like to reserve my time.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you, counsel.
ORAL ARGUMENT OF GEN. ROY COOPER ON BEHALF OF THE RESPONDENT
Mr. Cooper III: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
In determining custody for Miranda purposes, this Court has considered only the external surrounding circumstances of the question and not the attributes that affect the mental processes of the person being questioned.
Age fundamentally changes the reasonable person test, makes it complex, makes it more illogical, with no logical stopping point for adding other characteristics, as Justice Breyer--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: You would add none?
No other characteristics?
Mr. Cooper III: --This Court has not said--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Well, I mean here.
Mr. Cooper III: --Yes, Your Honor.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: There's a big sign jail cell, the door is unlocked.
When you want to leave, leave.
Is he in custody?
Mr. Cooper III: Well, Your Honor, I think you have to look at the obvious circumstances.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Is he in custody?
It's a jail cell, but a big sign,
"Go ahead, leave, go when you want. "
Is he free to leave?
Mr. Cooper III: I think he may be, Your Honor.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Yeah, so do I.
Mr. Cooper III: If that's how you want--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: I'll just tell you one other circumstance.
Mr. Cooper III: --Yes.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: He only speaks Spanish.
Mr. Cooper III: Well, Your Honor, I think it affects--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Ukrainian is the only thing he speaks.
Now are you willing to take that into account?
Mr. Cooper III: --Your Honor, I am willing to take that into account.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Thank you.
Now, I'll say another fact.
Exactly the same, except there are very steep steps and he's in a wheelchair.
Are you willing to take that into account?
Mr. Cooper III: I am willing to take that into account.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Okay.
Then why aren't you willing to take into account an ambiguous situation as was true in Alvarado, a tough situation where it's pretty unclear; he was brought there by his parents and there are all these things around that might suggest to a 20-year-old, yeah, you could leave, but to a 12-year-old, "no".
If the judge can take into account whether he's in a wheelchair, whether he just speaks Ukrainian, whether in fact a thing -- you have to swim through a pool and he doesn't know how to swim -- I mean, all kinds of things like that; why can't he take into account in a proper situation before he thinks he's in custody or not, things they both know including whether he's 8 years old or 22?
Mr. Cooper III: Your Honor, because those are obvious circumstances that everyone agrees--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: And it's obvious whether he's 8-year-old or 2 2, too.
I'll tell you that.
Mr. Cooper III: --The problem is, Your Honor, you have to think like an 8-year-old or think like a 15-year-old in order to determine the situation.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Right.
And you have to think like a Ukrainian speaker or think like a -- a -- a -- like a person who knows he's in a wheelchair before you know he can't get up those steep steps.
Mr. Cooper III: I think the difference--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: What is exactly the -- the difference?
Mr. Cooper III: --The difference is with the Ukrainian is that you look at whether the knowledge was actually acquired.
And if he speaks Ukrainian, then everyone knows that the -- that the knowledge was not acquired.
People understand that someone who has a seeing eye dog, if you take him out of the room, then you have exerted coercion over the situation.
I think that's different from requiring the officer to get into the mind of the reasonable 15-year-old or 16-year-old.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: I haven't said that.
What the opinion said, which unfortunately may mean nothing unless it's promoted to the status of majority, is you look to those factors that are relevant to, known to both policeman and the suspect, and are known to be relevant to the likelihood that a person -- a likely person, not him -- that are known likely relevant to an ordinary person's belief -- this kind of a person -- that he thinks he's free to go.
Mr. Cooper III: I think--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: That's all.
What's wrong with that?
Mr. Cooper III: --I think that's right, Your Honor, and age--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Well, if it's right, then you--
Mr. Cooper III: --Well, no, age is an objective fact, but what -- what they're asking us to do is to use age in a way where you're having to figure out what a -- what that person would think.
And they're using age as an overgeneralization for compliance.
There are lots of groups that would be naturally more compliant.
Mentally challenged people, seniors in rest homes, there are all kinds of people who would be more compliant, but compliance doesn't necessarily equal coercion.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: --You know the sentence I'm referring to in my dissent, presumably?
When I have set forth the test which was not accepted.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Some people don't -- some people don't read the sentence.
He may not have read it.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: I'm -- I live always in hope.
Mr. Cooper III: I'm aware of it.
It was a very well worded dissent.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Well, I mean, the thing about known to both and relevant to a likely belief as to whether he's in custody or not.
Now, are you willing to accept that as a proper statement of the law?
Mr. Cooper III: I'm willing to accept that, Your Honor.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Fine.
Mr. Cooper III: I am.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Well, then, perfect.
Mr. Cooper III: But I don't think it includes age in the way they want to use it in this particular situation.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: What do you mean by use it in this situation?
This is a middle -- middle school.
This is an officer who deals only with children.
I can't imagine any setting where age isn't more apparent than when dealing with an assistant principal, a juvenile investigator, going -- deciding -- the juvenile investigator deciding the place where he wants to conduct this is in a middle school.
I mean, just as a matter of common sense, how can you say that we're going to have the same test for this 8-year-old as we would for the 30-year-old?
Mr. Cooper III: Well, Your Honor, the officer may not know the age, but if he does, in this situation he did, and -- and if the officer is in a middle school, there is still a problem with having to figure out what his actions and how they -- what they are and how they affect a juvenile of a particular age.
In the situation of the 8-year-old it may seem intuitively wrong, but the issue is, is you have to get into the mind of the 8-year-old, makes it very difficult as a practical matter.
The officer's going to have voluntariness problems.
If the officer would read Miranda, the officer is going to have waiver problems.
Officers have, in those situations, incentive to read Miranda, to get a parent.
In -- in -- in this type of situation the officer went there, it -- it was a familiar location to this juvenile, it was a situation where he knew three of the people in the room, the officer asked him if he wanted to answer questions, and he said yes, the interview was relatively short.
The juvenile left at the end of the interview, which is -- which is relevant, and I think in this situation if -- if you -- if you look at it broadly, it's very difficult for officers to tell age and to tell how age affects the situation.
Justice Antonin Scalia: He probably couldn't leave the classroom, either, could he, the classroom where he was studying?
Mr. Cooper III: Your Honor, he probably could not.
Justice Antonin Scalia: So the -- the additional coercive effect of not being able to leave probably didn't make a whole lot of difference.
He knew he was stuck where his parents had put him, in the school.
And if the school sent him to a classroom, he had to be in the classroom; and if the school sent him to a place where he could, if he wished, voluntarily speak to the police officers, he had to be there.
Mr. Cooper III: Well, I think that's right, Your Honor.
I think you look at the school setting and I think you look at--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: And we look at what is the normal school setting just like we looked at the normal business settings, he's in class, all the children are around him.
This seventh grader was marched by the school security officer, taken away from his peers, from his class in -- put in a room with a closed door with the assistant principal.
That is not a normal part of the school day.
That's not where he is required to be.
Mr. Cooper III: --Well, Your Honor, I think feeling free to leave somewhere is not the entire test for custody.
There has to be a restraint on freedom to the degree associated with the arrest, and I think that's pretty clear from the Berkemer case--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: But you say associated with a reasonable man, and when we construct the reasonable man, you're asking me to think of a 25-year-old sitting in a seventh grade social -- social studies class.
Mr. Cooper III: --Well, Your Honor, I think a reasonable--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: That's a little hard for me to imagine.
Mr. Cooper III: --Well, a -- a reasonable person is one of ordinary reason and intelligence who knows what custody looks like, essentially, and is informed by 45 years of case law.
If you have someone who is very young, but if you have someone without any other kind of disability, the voluntariness test is there.
It -- it considers age significantly in determining whether a statement--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Excuse me, haven't we repeatedly said that it's going to be very difficult for a defendant to show that his confession wasn't involuntary if there was no Miranda violation?
Isn't the entire purpose of Miranda and its requirement because there was a belief that it wasn't -- that voluntariness wasn't enough -- was not good enough because it was such a high bar, to secure the privilege against self-incrimination?
Mr. Cooper III: --Well, Your Honor, I agree with that, but the voluntariness test was complex because you did consider so many factors.
So the Court lifted the Miranda test out of the voluntariness test, made it an objective test, a prophylactic one, clearly a different test--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: That doesn't answer my question.
If we've said if you're not in custody, it's going to be nearly impossible for you to show that your statement was involuntary, are you now accepting that with respect to age a 9-year-old may not feel free to leave as opposed to a 13 or 14-year-old, that somehow we should instruct the courts that age really needs to be stepped up in the voluntariness test?
Mr. Cooper III: --Well, Your Honor, in -- in voluntariness, you don't necessarily have to have custody to prove that a statement is involuntary, and of children who are particularly young, that will come into play significantly.
I think you don't have to get into turning Miranda upside down in order--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: So are you happy with the rule that says, no, not in the objective Miranda test, but, yes, age should be elevated as a prime consideration in the voluntariness test?
Mr. Cooper III: --Justice Sotomayor, I think it is already a significant factor in the voluntariness test, and I think particularly for young children, I think you're going to see that continue to occur.
Justice Elena Kagan: General Cooper, I'm not sure how I understand or that I understand how this would be turning Miranda upside down.
Miranda is already an incredibly complicated test about when those warnings need to be given, all right.
So there are all manner of circumstances which go into the determination of whether a person would feel free to learn -- leave, whether a person would feel as though he were in custody, a thousand things, how many people are in the room, how long the interrogation is, where the interrogation is, the particular circumstances of the interrogation.
So, this is not a bright line test, and all that we would be doing here would be adding an additional objective factor to an already multifaceted inquiry.
Mr. Cooper III: Justice Kagan, admittedly sometimes Miranda has gray areas, because you do look at a combination of factors, but it's informed with 45 years of case law.
And officers now have a pretty good idea as to what combination of factors constitute custody for Miranda purposes.
What age does is now we're going to have to go back in and reassess all of those combination of factors through the eyes of a 13, 14, 15-year-old, 16-year-old, it's going to be case law that's going to take--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Why?
Why is that?
We've seen two cases that seem like blue moon, once in a blue moon.
Alvarado is a odd set of circumstances.
And what is the terrible thing, the awful thing that has to happen if the officer isn't sure whether this individual thinks he's in custody or not?
Suppose the officer just isn't sure.
What terrible thing happens?
Mr. Cooper III: --Well, Your Honor--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: What is the answer to that question?
Mr. Cooper III: --You over Mirandize.
You Mirandize when it's not necessary.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Oh, well, you over Mirandize.
The terrible thing that happens is you have to give them a Miranda warning.
Now -- now, that is the terrible thing.
Now -- now -- now, why is that a burden on the criminal justice system that sometimes in ambiguous circumstances or because this kid is very young, he might not understand it quite as well, and the officer sees that, the kid sees it, and so the officer has to give him a Miranda warning.
Mr. Cooper III: Your Honor--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Now, what happens to destroy the criminal justice system?
You can see from my overstatement, I tend to suspect nothing, but you tell me.
Mr. Cooper III: --A lot.
School resource officers, there are thousands of them, they are -- they are licensed, but police officers -- uniform police officers who often counsel kids as well as protect the school.
Under the Petitioner's theory, a school resource officer who is going to take a juvenile into a room to talk about a stolen cell phone or bullying, the first thing that he's got to say is you have the right to remain silent.
Now, that, in my opinion, disrupts the communication.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Why not the first thing, hey, kid, we're here talking, but you want to leave, just open the door and leave.
Nobody's keeping you here.
Why isn't that the first thing, if he's really free to go?
Mr. Cooper III: Well, he may not want him to go, number one.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Oh, oh, oh, I see, I see.
Mr. Cooper III: Well, you know, you want to talk -- you want to talk to the kid.
If you have a traffic stop, you don't want to immediately tell the 15-year-old driver, you're free to leave, because he's not.
It's just like Berkemer.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: He's not free to leave?
Well, then, why not warn him?
Mr. Cooper III: Well, no, because that's a Berkemer situation, a traffic stop.
And it didn't--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: --For search purposes, is age consciousness required?
Remember, a part of this is the police officer then goes to the boy's home.
The police officer is trained to deal with juveniles.
And he says to the boy, you can't consent to the search because you're a seventh-grader.
I will have to get a warrant.
So please stay here until I get a warrant.
If he can't -- if he's not treated like an adult for purposes of the search, if you get the warrant, if the police need a warrant because they're dealing with a seventh-grader, why should it be different for in custody for Miranda purposes?
Mr. Cooper III: --Well, Your Honor, I think when you're dealing with voluntariness, when you're dealing with consent to search, when you're dealing with waiver, you're looking at the particular juvenile.
You're looking at all of the circumstances.
The courts have said that the Miranda test is different--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: I thought all the police officer was looking at when he said
"I have to get a warrant. "
is that he's dealing with a seventh-grader, not all the circumstances.
Very simple: Age.
Mr. Cooper III: --Well, it might--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: He's under the age of consent.
Mr. Cooper III: --It might have been, in this circumstance, that he didn't own the house.
It was the grandmother who actually owned the house as to why he needed--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: He can't consent to a contract.
Mr. Cooper III: --And, Your Honor, you are right.
There are other categorical prohibitions on age across the board in our law, but here what we're doing is asking officers to assess each situation based on the particular age of a juvenile, which makes it all the more difficult for the officer.
You know, say for example that you're at a Terry stop and there are a number of juvenile-looking people there.
Let's say they're 15 to 19, but the officer doesn't know it.
He's at the Terry stop.
He's going to be faced with, potentially, Mirandizing some of the people there and not -- not others.
That's going to put law enforcement in an untenable situation and make it very complex for them as to when they read Miranda and they don't.
And I think in addition to--
Justice Elena Kagan: Counsel, do you agree with the solicitor general's view that a blind person should be treated as a blind person for -- for these purposes?
Mr. Cooper III: --I think I do, Your Honor, because--
Justice Elena Kagan: And a deaf person should be treated as a deaf person for these purposes?
Mr. Cooper III: --It's an obvious external circumstance.
Justice Elena Kagan: As is youth.
As is youth, an obvious external circumstance that this boy was 13 years old.
Mr. Cooper III: But you don't have to get into the mind of the blind person or the deaf person.
The only issue is whether they have acquired the knowledge in order to be able to put it into the--
Justice Elena Kagan: You know, I don't agree with that.
You are trying to understand this situation as the blind person would have seen it or as the deaf person would have seen it or as the 13-year-old would have seen it, and I don't understand why it's different.
Mr. Cooper III: --Well, Your Honor, I think it's different because it has to do with something that is obvious.
It is not necessarily obvious how a 13 or 14-year-old would view the situation.
And just in the -- the Alvarado opinion, the opinion says that sometimes the permissible objective facts and impermissible subjective opinions sometimes merge.
Justice Antonin Scalia: The blind person doesn't have a different mind.
Mr. Cooper III: That's correct.
Justice Antonin Scalia: The deaf person doesn't have a different mind.
He just has less data, and it's easy to take account of less data; easier to take account of less data than it is to take account of how different one's mind is because he's 16 instead of 13 or whatever.
That's the difference between the blind and the deaf, isn't it?
Mr. Cooper III: I think you're absolutely -- absolutely right, and yes, too, Your Honor.
I think it's important to know that we have already started going down the slippery slope in a number of states.
There have been 11 states, contrary to Petitioner's brief, that are considering other characteristics in Miranda, such as sophistication, such as education, such as intelligence.
That makes it so much more difficult.
And this Court has not hesitated -- it did not hesitate in Alvarado; it did not hesitate in Berkemer -- to correct lower courts, to say we've got to make sure that Miranda is complete, that Miranda stays clear and objective, and that we don't blur the lines.
Justice Samuel Alito: If the law goes down that route, then one of the chief advantages of the Miranda rule, which is that it's a relatively simple objective test, is eliminated, and the law of Miranda begins to resemble the law of voluntariness.
And maybe at that point, there is no longer a strong argument in favor of Miranda, and the voluntariness test will be the sole test.
Mr. Cooper III: We support Miranda, Your Honor.
We support Miranda in its current form.
We think it's appropriate, but I think clearly, by adding age into the circumstance, it makes it more complicated.
Your Honor, I would -- Justices, I would request that the North Carolina Supreme Court decision be upheld.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you, counsel.
ORAL ARGUMENT OF ERIC J. FEIGIN, ON BEHALF OF THE UNITED STATES, AS AMICUS CURIAE, SUPPORTING THE RESPONDENT
Mr. Feigin: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
There are three primary reasons why age should not be a factor in the Miranda custody test.
I think the most important one is this: The only statements that are going to be suppressed under Petitioner's rule that wouldn't already be suppressed by existing doctrine are statements that, first of all, the prosecution has--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: I'm sorry.
I just -- the only statements that could be suppressed -- I just didn't hear.
Mr. Feigin: --The only statements that are going to be suppressed under Petitioner's rule that would take age into account that aren't already going to be suppressed under existing constitutional doctrines are statements that, first of all, the prosecution has carried its burden to prove are voluntary under a voluntariness test that already takes age into account, and second of all, are given under circumstances that don't otherwise meet the definition of custody; that is, formal arrest or its functional equivalent.
I think that's a relatively small and not a particularly problematic category of statements, and I don't think it's worth complicating the Miranda rule in order to make sure that those statements are suppressed.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Why?
Maybe you can explain this to me, too.
You have a blind person there.
Everyone -- you don't know how blind.
He's somewhat blind.
A deaf person.
How hard of hearing?
We're not sure.
So the policeman goes a little overboard.
You are free to leave, or shows it to him, or makes sure he gets it in.
Why is that so tough to do where you also have a 12-year-old?
If he really is free to leave, just make clear that he knows it.
Mr. Feigin: Well, Your Honor, I think the critical difference between blindness, deafness, and other sensory disabilities and age is what Justice Scalia said a few minutes ago, which is, in the case of a blind or deaf person, you can try to figure out what the circumstances surrounding the interrogation that are observable to that person are, and then--
Justice Elena Kagan: But that's all we're doing with the young person.
And in fact, most of us, many of us, have a great deal more experience understanding the world through the eyes of a young person or children, perhaps, than understanding the eyes -- the world through the eyes of a severely sensory deprived person.
We're asking the exact same thing in both contexts: What is this person -- what is this -- what do the objective circumstances appear to a person in this situation?
Mr. Feigin: --Well, Your Honor, I don't think you're doing the same thing, and I think it's easier to put yourself in the mindset of a person with a sensory deprivation than a person of a particular age, and let me explain why.
For a person with a sensory deprivation, like in Justice Breyer's example, the sign that someone can't read, I think it's very common and easy for officers and courts to figure out how they would react to the situation if the sign simply weren't there.
With age, what you're asking perhaps a 45-year-old officer to do, in Justice Alito's example, or a 60-year-old judge to do, is to put them into the frame of mind of a person that they haven't been for 32 years or 45 years, and I don't think that's a very easy inquiry to ask officers or courts to make.
I think this is really going to complicate the Miranda rule by asking them, A, to do that, and, B, because there are going to be many cases, unlike this case, where it's not going to be apparent to the officer what age the suspect is.
One thing that comes up fairly commonly in many jurisdictions is that an officer will stop someone on a -- do a traffic stop of someone on the road; the person will claim not to have their ID, and it will turn out the person is 14 and they will give the name and birth date of an older sibling.
And there is simply no way for an officer in those circumstances to know what the age of the suspect is.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Limit it to when the age is known.
If we limit it to, this is an officer who not only knows he's dealing with a seventh-grader but he decides the venue for the questioning is going to be a room in the school, that's -- it's not a mystery.
It's not a guess.
He knows he's dealing with a seventh-grader.
He sets it up.
Are we to ignore what the investigating officer knows?
The investigating officer knows he's dealing with a child.
Mr. Feigin: Well, Your Honor, I think there are sort of two parts to your question.
Let me deal first with the rule that would only apply when officers know the identity, know the age of the suspect.
I think that rule would be easier to apply than the rule the Petitioners are suggesting and would mitigate some of the damage, but first of all it doesn't solve the critical problem of asking officers who aren't themselves 13 to think like someone who is 13; and second of all, I think for reasons that I think were apparent during the argument by my friend on the other side, that rule might easily devolve into a "should have known" test, and officers simply aren't going to be able to deal with that.
Justice Antonin Scalia: The officer doesn't have to think like a 13-year-old, he has to think the way a 60-year-old judge would think a 13-year-old thought, right?
Mr. Feigin: That's right, Your Honor, and it may depend what -- which particular 60-year-old judge--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: But that isn't -- to me, anyway, that is not the question.
I don't think anybody is asking anybody to think like anything else.
All it is, when you face a younger child, and he is free to go, and you mean he's free to go, you just sort of err a little bit on the safe side and make sure he understands it.
Nobody has to think like anybody.
All they have to think is let's err somewhat on the safe side.
Now why is that tough?
Mr. Feigin: --Well, Your Honor, I think that the main problem here is that it's going to create more confusion for officers because it's another factor they have to put into the test, and it's--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: What's the--
Justice Antonin Scalia: Why don't we require Miranda always?
Mr. Feigin: --The courts--
Justice Antonin Scalia: Is there any harm in requiring it always?
It's always easy to do.
Why don't we require it all the time?
Can you tell us why it makes a difference?
Mr. Feigin: --I think it's very unrealistic that every time an officer opens their mouth they have to give Miranda warnings, and I think it would fundamentally change the nature of police interactions with the public.
The Court -- and the other reason the Court has never required it is that voluntary statements, the Court made clear in two cases last term again, Maryland v. Jasper, and Berkeley v. Thompkins, are a good thing, and there -- voluntary confessions are a good thing, they're very helpful for law enforcement.
Justice Elena Kagan: Mr. Feigin--
Mr. Feigin: And there's no reason to--
Justice Elena Kagan: --I'm sorry.
Mr. Feigin: --Please.
Justice Elena Kagan: Do you think that a 00 a person with Down's syndrome, that that should be taken into account in this inquiry?
Mr. Feigin: I'm not sure how that would be taken into account, Your Honor.
To the extent that someone with Down's syndrome thinks differently from someone who doesn't have Down's syndrome, I think that would be very relevant to the voluntariness test but would not be relevant to the custody test.
Because it's -- again it's going to be very difficult to ask an officer to put themselves in the mindset of someone who has Down's syndrome.
I think the -- the third problem--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: So how is that different than blindness or hearing?
A person with Down's syndrome, many -- some don't -- show characteristics that they're not capable of comprehension, or not capable of absorbing information.
Mr. Feigin: --Well, Your Honor--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: They barely look at you, they barely -- you know, there are characteristics that show you a lack of absorption of information.
Mr. Feigin: --Your Honor, I may have difficulty dealing with this particular hypothetical because of my lack of knowledge of the particular symptoms of Down's syndrome; but if you're dealing with a suspect who simply can't absorb information about the world, then that's going to be a sensory deprivation that's going to be taken into account, because it's going to subtract circumstances away that that suspect can't perceive.
But if you're asking about the mindset of someone that has a particular sensory disability, then no, I don't think that would be taken into account because it's asking too much of officers to try to put themselves in that mindset.
And the third problem, I think, with factoring age into the custody test is that -- and as I think Petitioners effectively conceded, it creates a slippery slope problem.
There really isn't a clear distinction between age and other things such as mental disorders or cultural background, that defendants also argue change whether they believe that they've been subject to a formal arrest or its functional equivalent.
Justice Antonin Scalia: We don't want Miranda warnings to be given where they are unnecessary because they are only necessary to prevent coercion, and where there's no coercion, we want confessions, don't we?
And the Miranda warnings deter confessions.
Mr. Feigin: That's right, Your Honor.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Isn't that the basic reason?
Mr. Feigin: That's right, Your Honor, and--
Justice Antonin Scalia: So it's not cost-free to require Miranda warnings.
Mr. Feigin: --That's right--
Justice Antonin Scalia: It's a good thing to have the bad guys confess that they're bad guys, right?
Mr. Feigin: --That's right, Your Honor, that's what I was trying to say earlier.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: --Before you -- you are so quick to answer that's right, isn't it so that the manual that this very officer was given to use said before you question a child, give Miranda warnings?
Mr. Feigin: Yes, it did, Your Honor.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Apparently the people who train these juvenile officers think it's a good thing, not a bad thing to give a Miranda warning.
Mr. Feigin: Well, one reason they may think it's a good thing and one reason I think the Court doesn't need to accept Petitioner's rule here, is that officers often will give Miranda warnings, for precisely the reasons Justice Sotomayor was suggesting earlier, which is that when officers do give Miranda warnings, it's going to be -- and those Miranda -- the Miranda procedures are all validly followed, there's not going to be a real robust voluntariness inquiry because in most cases where the Miranda procedures are followed, the statements are going to be found to be voluntary under the voluntariness test.
And if I could actually add answer an answer to Justice Scalia's earlier question, Miranda isn't simply concerned with coercion.
The Court made very clear in Oregon v. Mathiason that Miranda isn't attempting capture every quote, unquote, "coercive environment".
What Miranda is directed at is a specific environment -- thank you.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Finish your sentence.
Mr. Feigin: Specific environment, namely custody, which is defined as a formal arrest or its functional equivalent.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you, counsel.
Ms. Blackman, you have 3 minutes remaining.
REBUTTAL ARGUMENT OF BARBARA S. BLACKMAN ON BEHALF OF THE PETITIONER
Ms Blackman: I think what's very odd in this case is that the only party that didn't consider J.D.B.'s age was the courts.
I mean, it was clearly being taken into account by Officer DiCostanzo, and J.D.B. was fully aware of his own age.
And under Thompson v. Keohane, what a reviewing court is supposed to be doing is immersing itself in the actual circumstances of the case; and without this consideration of age, then the courts are examining hypothetical, because -- hypothetical interrogations and not the one that was actually occurring in the case.
Officers have to make judgments about every objective circumstance that arises, and asking them to make objective determinations on juvenile status is no different and is not going to muddy the water.
I think as Justice Kagan pointed out, custody is a very difficult issue.
It's not subject to bright line rules.
But we can't be defining it in such a way where we are requiring these children to be someone that they never could be, and that is, reasonable adults.
If our goal here is to ensure reliability of factfinding, reliability of statements, if we want to reduce the coercion, to which our citizens are entitled, then this rule needs to be put into play, and we ask that the North Carolina Supreme Court decision be reversed.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you, counsel.
The case is submitted.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: This case comes to us from the Supreme Court of North Carolina.
Under our decision in Miranda versus Arizona, a suspect must be warned of his rights before being subjected to custodial police interrogation.
A suspect is in police custody if given all of the objective circumstances a reasonable person in the suspect's position would not feel at liberty to terminate questioning and leave.
This case presents the question whether the age of a child subjected to police questioning is relevant to the Miranda custody analysis.
Petitioner was a 13-year-old child attending middle school classes when police removed him from his classroom and escorted him to a school conference room.
There, petitioner was met by school administrators and an investigator with the local police force.
For at least 30 minutes, petitioner was questioned about his involvement in two home breakings that occurred the prior weekend.
Eventually, petitioner confessed to the crimes.
Petitioner was charged with breaking and entering and larceny.
He argued in the state court that his confession must be suppressed because he had been interrogated in a custodial setting without first receiving the warnings that Miranda requires.
The (Inaudible) trial and appellate courts rejected this argument.
The North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed refusing to consider petitioner's age as part of that custody analysis, we reverse.
As we explained in our opinion filed with the clerk of the court today, we conclude that a child's age properly informs the Miranda custody analysis.
A child's age is an objective fact that would affect how a reasonable person in the suspect's position would perceive his freedom to terminate questioning and leave.
Police officers in courts can account for that reality without compromising the objective nature of the custody analysis.
So long as the child's age was known to the officer at the time of police questioning or would have been objectively apparent to a reasonable officer, a child's age properly informs the Miranda custody analysis.
The judgment of the North Carolina Supreme Court is reversed.
The case is remanded for the state courts to evaluate whether petitioner was in custody, when police interrogated him, this time taking into account of his age at the time.
Justice Alito has filed a dissenting opinion in which the Chief Justice, Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas joined.