It often seems like the presumption of innocence is a lost concept in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nonetheless, it is crucial to remember that no one is guilty of a crime until the prosecution has fully established their case in court.
Like any other institution, things can go wrong in criminal justice. Humans are capable of being dishonest, they can be susceptible to corruption and most importantly they can make mistakes. Such factors can lead to wrongful convictions, which affect young people in particular.
Not understanding fundamental rights
Adolescents like to give the impression that they are fully independent and capable of making it on their own in the wider world. The reality is generally different. Younger people may not be aware of their fundamental legal rights, which places them in a vulnerable position. For instance, a younger person may not know about their right to remain silent or the ability to have a responsible adult present during police interviews. Anyone who is left without support during a police interrogation is more likely to make self-incriminating statements, which can have devastating impacts on the outcome of a legal case.
Studies show that false confessions are a leading contributor to wrongful convictions. The pressure that comes with a police investigation can be overwhelming, especially for a juvenile. A young person will likely just want matters to come to a swift end, so they can return home or to their friends. This could convince them that telling the police what they want to hear is in their best interests. In truth, once the police have identified a suspect, a confession is their ideal outcome, but it is not the ideal outcome for the accused. A coerced confession could mean that the younger person does not get to return home at all.
It is crucial to understand that things can go wrong in the criminal justice system. Having a firm grasp of the legal protections available in Texas could ensure that your younger relative has the best possible defense.