Last week, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the state’s laws do not entitle juveniles the right to an attorney during interrogations that occur before charges are formally filed, or prior to an initial appearance in Ohio’s juvenile courts.
The decision stems from a case involving a juvenile, caught driving without a valid license, when he was initially stopped by a Cleveland-area police officer. Later, the teen signed a Miranda Rights waiver and a statement admitting he was involved in a robbery.
The teen’s defense team said that his statement should not have been admitted into evidence, as police did not provide him with a lawyer.
A portion of Ohio state law requires minors in delinquency cases to have legal counsel “at all stages of proceedings.” Ohio’s high court, in a 4-3 ruling, determined that “proceedings” does not entail investigator actions.
The ruling also affirms a prior decision that state laws prohibiting minors from waiving their right to counsel before consulting a parent, custodian or lawyer was applicable only to court proceedings, and not police interactions.
Justice Terrence O’Donnell wrote the court’s majority opinion, joined by Justices Judith Lanzinger, Robert Cupp and Evelyn Stratton.
Writing in dissent, several justices wrote that the ruling “defies law, logic and common sense” and “offends fundamental notions of due process and fairness.”
“The majority’s holding offends the United States Supreme Court’s constitutional commands on a juvenile’s due process and Fifth Amendments rights,” wrote Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, who was joined in dissent by Justices Paul Pfeifer and Yvette McGee Brown.