By Bill Parry
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) introduced legislation that would reform Miranda rights in New York for young people. The bill would require police officers to provide a plain language description of a juvenile defendant’s right to silence before being interrogated and their required consent before questioning can proceed. .
“Miranda rights are worthless unless they are understood by the arrested individual,” Gianaris said. “Statistics make clear too many underage New Yorkers are waiving their Constitutional rights because they do not comprehend them.”
Gianaris’ office cites recent data from the American Bar Association that indicates the annual charging of more than 115,000 youths with criminal offenses nationally poses an even greater challenge to Miranda warning comprehension. More than one million juveniles under the age of 18 are criminally charged nationwide each year, with roughly only 10 percent of juveniles found to exercise their Miranda rights.
“They’re easily manipulated due to their lack of understanding of the process and a lack of good legal advice,” Gianaris said.
In 2010, the American Bar Association adopted a resolution calling for this reform, saying it would benefit young defendants, police and prosecutors. Miranda warnings currently vary substantially in length and often use language comprehensible only to those with a college reading level. Gianaris’ proposal creates a standardized, short warning using terminology understandable at an elementary school reading level.
Gianaris’ juvenile Miranda reform bill follows his most recent criminal justice legislation, which would eliminate cash bail in New York state. He also proposed an innocence commission to review and prevent wrongful convictions.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr