County Must Provide Lawyers to Kids Before Questioning, Council Orders Unanimously

The legislation also requires a court order before county jailers can hand youth over to police.

Today, the King County Council unanimously passed legislation that will require arrested minors to consult with a lawyer before talking to police. The consultation may not be waived. The law also requires a court order before county jailers can hand-off children in their custody to police officers “for the purpose of interrogation.”

The purpose of the law is to protect minors from caving to implicit pressure to talk to police. As the bill’s text notes, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in the past that “by its very nature, the pressure of custodial interrogation is so immense that it ‘can induce a frighteningly high percentage of people to confess to crimes they never committed.’” Police are, of course, masters at implicit pressure. And, obviously, children are more susceptible to such pressure than adults.

“This legislation, vetted through our community-based Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee, will protect our children by ensuring that they will be represented by an attorney who will have their best interests at heart,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett, chair of the Council’s Law and Justice Committee, in a press release. “Science, courts, and best practices show that youth must be provided protection from potential self-incrimination and abuses that can occur once in contact with our criminal justice system.”

“The new legislation is consistent with both the science and with the County’s commitment to equity and social justice,” said Attorney Anita Khandelwal, policy director at the Office of Public Defense, according to another press release. “Making sure that these children speak with advocates who can explain the system before they make a decision is an important first step in making our system more equitable and fair.”

According to the law’s text, it is based in part on the U.S. Department of Justice’s recent decision to require the St. Louis family court to prohibit police from interrogating minors unless the minor has a lawyer present.

Attorney and mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver responded to news of the laws passage thus: “I have been working with the attorneys moving this forward and have testified at multiple KCC meetings regarding this. This is an important step in the right direction of protecting the rights of all our children and youth and stopping the school-to-prison pipeline.”

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg previously advocated against the law, as has county sheriff John Urqhart, according to KUOW. Satterberg argued that it would have “unintended consequences” such as making youth less willing to talk to police.

“It’s very hard to deal with, to talk to young girls out on the street when their pimps are nearby. But if they’re in detention, detectives regularly will go up and we have to build a relationship with them. Sometimes it takes a couple of visits before the young woman will realize that this police officer really wants to help me,” Satterberg said.

cjaywork@seattleweekly.com

This post has been edited.

More in News & Comment

The exterior of the University District crisis pregnancy center, 3W Medical for Women. Photo by Keiko DeLuca
How Title X Cuts Impact UW Women’s Health

Some student advocates worry that slashed budgets could drive student to misleading crisis pregnancy centers.

Trans Pride Seattle seeks to strengthen the transgender and non-binary community. 
Photo courtesy of Gender Justice League
Trans Pride Seattle Continues Marching

In light of federal budget cuts, the parade that highlights marginalized voices survives due to community crowdfunding.

As the executive director of the Tenants Union of Washington State, Violet Lavatai (left) believes that YIMBY policies 
do not actually help the communities most in need of housing. Photo courtesy Tenants Union of Washington State
The Growing Power of Seattle YIMBYs

The tech-funded “Yes in My Backyard” movement thinks the housing crisis can be solved by rapid development, but does it only benefit those at the top?

Hidden River Farms is 100 acres of farmland in Grays Harbor County. Photo by Lucia Wyss
Sowing the Seeds of Mental Health

Suicide is an epidemic amongst agricultural workers, but young farmers and state legislators are working to find solutions.

Seattle and King County Officials Want a Safe Injection Van

The mobile project—an alternative to permanent sites—still doesn’t have a defined timeline.

Western Washington Could See More Wildfires This Year

Lots of grass and warmer weather could make for worsening fire seasons.

An autopsy found that Tommy Le was shot twice in the back during an fatal encounter with a King County sheriff’s deputy. Photo courtesy Career Link
New Report Calls for Increased Transparency From King County Sheriff’s Office

The fatal shooting of Tommy Le served as a case study for researchers.

Charles Pillon sits inside one of the several buses on Iron Mountain. Photo by Caean Couto
The Last Days of Iron Mountain?

After battling King County government for decades, Charles Pillon may have finally lost the fight over his illegal 10-acre junkyard.

Most Read