Ohio Legislators Propose Bill Giving Kids the Right to Counsel in Interrogations

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Earlier this month, in a narrow 4-3 decision, the Ohio state Supreme Court ruled juveniles are not entitled to the many of the same legal protections as adults, including the right to counsel during police interrogations that occur before charges are filed. Now, several state legislators are responding, proposing a law that would overrule the high court’s decision.

Ohio state Minority Whip Rep. Tracy Maxwell Heard, a Columbus-area Democrat, began drafting the proposed bill a year before the Oct. 3 Supreme Court ruling, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reports. The General Assembly proposal, co-sponsored by Rep. Ross McGregor, a Republican from Springfield, requires juveniles be informed of their right to counsel - either with an attorney or a parent or guardian - prior to police interrogations.

Prior to the state Supreme Court ruling, Ohio laws prohibited minors from waiving their right to counsel only in court proceedings, and not “investigator actions,” which include police interrogations.

Under the proposed law, confessions made by juveniles without the presence of a parent, legal guardian or attorney, are inadmissible as evidence. Parents are also prohibited from waiving their child’s legal rights on their behalf.

Heard said she hopes to introduce the legislation to the state House during the upcoming lame-duck session following the Nov. 6 election. It will also provide a chance to “get some more feedback” on the bill, she told The Plain Dealer.

“Why would we offer less protection to young people and children, who have less capacity to understand what the consequences are of the decisions that they're making in terms of their rights as citizens, than we would for adults?” Heard asked.

Photo from Rustwire.com

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