Closing the Gap: Advances in youth access to counsel at arrest

Published: (Last updated: )

The U.S. is an outlier when it comes to allowing children to be interrogated without a lawyer present. In addition, in all but few states, police are permitted to use discredited practices, such as deception during interrogations – practices which are outlawed in other democracies. The lack of legal representation and use of coercive practices is particularly harmful for children and has resulted in false confessions with devastating consequences.

This report outlines the recent wave of legislation being enacted to ensure that children have access to counsel after arrest and prior to interrogation. Such legislation not only supports youth in exercising their rights, including their right to remain silent, but can also help to mitigate coercive practices by police and to improve communication channels among police, youth, their families, prosecutors, and defense lawyers in ways that can support public safety and community trust.