Secret Service questions 13-year-old without his parent being present

Take your choice of links (each describing how a 13-year-old boy was “interrogated” by the Secret Service after making “threatening” remarks on Facebook about President Obama).

The remarks?

Believe me, I really do understand that the Secret Service has to take its job very seriously. As history (unfortunately) shows, there are lots of crazies out there who’d like nothing better than to ‘get noticed’ by popping the Prez. And, I appreciate that even 13-year-olds can pull a trigger or rig a primitive IED. Of course, except for the fact that they’re unlikely to publicize their intent beforehand, I also recognize that there are plenty of potential “terrorists” out there, too.

In other words, I would not blame the Secret Service for checking out a 13-year-old kid who uses Facebook to post threats against the President.

What I can’'t fathom, though, are how a kid’s posting of words to the effect of “President Obama better be careful because the terrorists will want revenge” justifies scaring the shit out of him (see the links) and, more importantly, questioning him without his mother present. Bad judgment squared.

(BTW, does anyone know exactly what the kid posted initially?)

I’m not aware of any law requiring parental presence for questioning of a minor. I’m almost positive there is not federal law or constitutional right, although there may be a relevant state law.

It’s not really about the law so much as it is about common sense and fairness. This is especially the case when you consider that the kid (apparently) said nothing that a million other people, including news reporters and political analysts, didn’t also say.

I suspect the issue would come up in the event of criminal charges being filed and an allegedly “voluntary” confession made. Did the child understand the Miranda warnings? For that matter, were the warnings even given? Was a request for counsel made? Were any other rights asserted? All this would be relevant to determine admissability of the confession.

I once saw a documentary called The Client that strongly implied that it’s a no no. Cite.

Oakminster is right. (Shocker!!)

There is no general rule against questioning a minor sans parents. (Of course, with fifty state laws in play, it’s not impossible that some states explicitly forbid the practice). But since a minor may not be able to meaningfully waive his Miranda rights, and, even if the interrogation is non-custodial, may not understand his right to refuse to answer questions or the inculpatory effect of his answers, it’s quitre possible that his answers would be inadmissible against him.

Here’s an example of police questioning a minor without a parent/attorney present. The police got a confession from the girls brother, prosecuted him, lost then later on, prosecuted the actual murderer. I seem to remember that the questioning occurred over a long period of time, and has parents were not allowed access to him.

Can’t the Secret Service basically do whatever the fuck they want and its tough noogies for you?

How would you know it was the secret service?

A minor wouldn’t know to waive his fifth amendment rights, and even if he tried, may have been coerced.

I assume the 13 year old has parents who are his Facebook friends, right?

I’d be really interested in knowing this as well.

I suspect what the kid actually wrote was probably more ambiguous than his current statements to reporters.

Here’s the element that you’re missing: The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. You’re right that extremists don’t normally advertise their crimes before they do them. But you know who does? Their relatives. Their friends. Their kids.

“I see you posted this on Facebook. You know, we at the Secret Service take this sort of thing seriously. Are you planning on hurting the President?”
“Well…I was just pretending. You know, like Dad does in the garage with his guns.”
On the other hand, if it’s probably nothing, then the agent is wasting his time. He’s just going through the motions and his lunch break was supposed to be an hour ago. He’s got more important things to worry about.

“Were your threatening the President?”
“Shouldn’t my Mom be here?”
“No. Just answer the question.”
“No, I was just warning the President.”
“OK. Go back to class.” Peace out.

Not quite the same thing, but I once served on a federal grand jury, in Kansas.

In one case two different thirteen year old girls had to give testimony on a case in which they had alleged a junior high male teacher hadmade unwelcome advances to them.

During the testimony parents were not allowed to be present. It’s the way the system works. There was the judge, the federal attorney, the court reporter/recorder, and we the jury. In other words these girls were alone in a roomful of strangers, having to speak about a really disturbing experience.

He would if his parents taught him civics instead of letting him watch MTV and iCarly. He was apparantly sophisticated enough to comprehend the consequences of killing history’s most prolific terrorist. He doesn’t have to understand the many layers of complexity of Miranda rights and the consequences of waiving them (very few people–including majors–do), he just has to know that he shouldn’t say anything in that situation until he talks to his parents/counsel. 13-years-old isn’t minor enough that he couldn’t/shouldn’t know that.

Can we get a ruling on whether or not the secret service even needs to mirandize you? Like someone mentioned upthread, don’t they have far more latittude then the police?

Talk about handling with kid gloves! They could’ve just thrown him in a navy brig for a decade or two.

This article says:

It sounds a little weird, but he could be telling the truth about his intentions, I guess.

The way I see it, if a seventeen-year-old is incapable—by law—of giving informed consent to have sex, or sign contracts, or vote, or drink, or buy cigarettes, a thirteen-year-old is, by the same token, incapable—under the same interpretation of the law—of understanding his rights to remain silent and to have counsel, or the consequences of waiving those rights.

It also seems it could be interpreted as:

A parent might say to their kid, “If you keep playing in the street, you could get hit by a car!” and a neighbor who overheard the warning reported to the police that the parent threatened to run over her kid with the car!

Ookaaay, but the Courts have ruled already about Miranda warnings and minors. Some of my students have written on Alvarado.

Again, the Secret Service is out of the scope of what is normal here.

What the hell are you (or your students, I suppose) talking about??

In Alvarado, the Supreme Court ruled that the detective questioning Alvarado did NOT have him in custofy, and thus his failure to be read and waive his Miranda rights was not a problem. It also explicitly rejected the suggestion that because he was a minor, Miranda provided any additional protection. In short, Alvarado’s conviction was upheld.

Please explain how the Alvardo case has the slightest scintilla of support for the proposition that “the Secret Service is out of the scope of what is normal here.”