The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides the right to be free from self-incrimination. The police must advise suspects of their rights when they are subject to a custodial interrogation by a state agent. If they fail to give the Miranda warning, then the statements made during the custodial interrogation are presumed to be involuntary and are to be excluded from evidence. A juvenile defendant in a Washington criminal case recently challenged his conviction on the grounds the court erred in admitting the statement he made to the chief of police in the principal’s office.
The fourteen-year-old defendant had been talking about video games with some classmates in one of their middle school classes. The other students said the defendant said something like “he was going to shoot the school.” One student said he did not really take the statement seriously because the defendant said that sort of thing “all the time” and he thought the defendant was joking.
The other student also said the defendant had previously made similar statements he had not taken seriously. This time, however, he was concerned and told the teacher. He said the defendant did not make the statement to anyone individually, but muttered it to himself. He said he was afraid the defendant would hurt someone.