The 446th session of the Maryland General Assembly has started, and a critical issue demands our collective attention. It is disheartening to learn that some of our local Eastern Shore representatives, influenced by special-interest groups like the Fraternal Order of Police, plan to challenge the Child Interrogation Protection Act, a vital law passed in 2022 to safeguard the due process rights of our young people.
Prior to the Child Interrogation Protection Act, children consistently underwent police interrogations without legal representation or a full understanding of their Miranda rights, leading to a disturbing frequency of coerced and false confessions. Studies, including one by Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, revealed that 90% of children waived their Miranda rights, with a higher propensity for false confessions compared to adults. The Center for Public Interest Law found children were three times more likely to falsely confess. This act represents a significant advancement, ensuring legal consultation for children during interrogations and prompt notification to their parents or guardians upon detention, rectifying a profound injustice in the treatment of children in legal situations.
This law isn’t just about preventing false confessions; it’s a crucial measure for protecting children from undue pressure during police questioning. It respects parental rights and the critical role of guardians in such high-stakes situations.
However, this progress is now under threat. Republican Sen. Mary Beth Carozza’s Senate Bill 326, the juvenile justice reform bill, seeks to create exemptions to this important statute. This proposed exemption would allow law enforcement to interrogate children without an attorney present, even in cases involving violence or firearms.
Our justice system is built on the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” The government should not, under any circumstances, suspend due process rights, especially when it comes to our children, who need support in exercising their due process rights because of their still-developing brains.
We must remember that the rights we afford to the most vulnerable among us, including children caught in the legal system, reflect our values as a society. To compromise these rights is to undermine the very foundations of justice and fairness that we cherish. As the legislative session unfolds, we urge our representatives to stand firm in upholding the Child Interrogation Protection Act and to reject any amendments that weaken its protections.
Our children’s rights and well-being depend on the decisions made in this legislative session. We, as organizations, community leaders and activists, call on our local elected officials in Annapolis and the General Assembly as a whole to oppose SB 326 and protect the integrity of the Child Interrogation Protection Act.
Jared Schablein, Eastern Shore organizer,
American Civil Liberties Union Maryland
Mary Ashanti, human rights activist
James Yamakawa, civil rights activist
Megan Outten, former Salisbury, Maryland, city councilwoman
Lower Shore Progressive Caucus members
Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties, Maryland
Mayor Todd Nock
Pocomoke City, Maryland
Edward “Eddie” Harmon, radio host, Live 97.5
Monica Brooks, president, Wicomico County NAACP
Amber Green, founder/executive director, Fenix Youth Project
Sydney Bradner-Jacobs, activist
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