J.D.B. v. North Carolina: Ushering in a New “Age” of Custody Analysis Under Miranda

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This Article will address three separate areas where the Roper, Graham, J.D.B. trilogy may prove to have a profound impact: waiver of right to counsel, Terry stops, and the nature of the attorney-client relationship. In each of these contexts, various attributes of youth have differing effects on the doctrinal determination. For instance, if juveniles are characteristically impetuous decision makers, they may require additional protections to ensure that they are afforded a meaningful opportunity to be represented by a lawyer. Likewise, considering age when assessing the reasonableness of whether a juvenile would feel free to terminate the encounter during a Terry stop may compel a different outcome after J.D.B. Finally, a juvenile’s difficulty in weighing long-term consequences against short-term gains could put him or her at a significant disadvantage in terms of the quality of the representation he or she receives. Though the extent of J.D.B.’s impact is currently unknowable, it has great potential to ensure a meaningful delivery of constitutional protections to children in the investigative and adjudicatory phases of proceedings. Before exploring these possibilities in greater depth, Part I of this article briefly traces Supreme Court treatment of age of the suspect in Miranda custody determinations. Part II in turn discusses Roper and Graham and the foundation those decisions laid for construing age as an objective factor in the custody analysis. Part III addresses the relevance of juvenile cognitive and social functioning in custodial interrogations. Finally, Part IV addresses the potential for applying other constitutional rights afforded to juveniles in a manner inclusive of age and psychosocial development, as demonstrated by J.D.B.


Originally published in 2011-2012 by the Journal of Law & Policy.

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