King County Council to Vote on Progressive Ordinance to Safeguard Youth Rights
In the coming weeks, the King County Council will vote on a proposed ordinance which aims to further protect the rights of youths in the criminal justice system. The ordinance has garnered the support of many prominent civil rights advocacy groups and legal organizations, which included supporting statements before the Council by members of the ACLU of Washington and Department of Public Defense.
If passed, the ordinance would require the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention to provide youths in custody an opportunity to speak with an attorney, before they are turned over to law enforcement for questioning. Interrogations of this nature typically involve youths being asked to sign waivers before questioning, in which they relinquish important rights and legal protections they are entitled to. With this waiver, they are stating that they understand their rights and the legal implications of talking to law enforcement, and that that they are waiving them.
This ordinance is an effort to further safeguard juveniles, and is an acknowledgment of the considerable scientific research on youth development and criminal justice data over the past several decades. Affording a youth an opportunity to speak to a professional adult attorney that can explain to them their legal rights before agreeing to voluntarily waive their rights away is a positive policy change for King County and beyond.
Last week, in a 3-1 vote, the King County Law and Justice Committee recommended Proposed Ordinance No. 2017-0167, progressing the proposed ordinance for a decision by the full County Council. The vote is expected to occur later this April.
Just recently, the county council voted to uphold the idea and now it is the right of a minor to have a court appointed attorney present if they are interrogated by the police.
This article was written by Ryan P. Wiles, Attorney at Law.