This post originally appeared on Prawsblawg.
There has been a lot of action recently in the world of juvenile confessions. Some of it has garnered nation-wide attention, like Brendan Dassey, the 16 year-old from the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, who is currently trying to convince a judge to release him after a federal appeals court (finally) found his confession to murder to have been coerced and involuntary. Less newsworthy, but just as important, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a decision upholding as knowing, intelligent and voluntary a Miranda waiver by an abused and developmentally-delayed 10 year-old. In California, Governor Brown vetoed legislation that would have required counsel for those under 18 before custodial interrogation could begin.
Each of these developments occurred days or weeks after I submitted a paper that explores the state of the law regarding Miranda waivers by juveniles. Where others have convincingly argued that juveniles need (and perhaps the constitution demands) counsel before they can validly waive the 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, my paper considers whether interrogation law should incorporate a rule akin to contract law’s infancy doctrine and permit individuals to retract uncounseled Miranda waivers.
This exploration of contract law's relevance to criminal procedure has me considering whether there is a bargaining zone for Miranda waivers.