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People ex rel. A.L.-C.

Supreme Court of Colorado

October 24, 2016

The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner-Appellant In the Interest of A.L.-C. Juvenile-Appellee

         Interlocutory Appeal from the Juvenile Court Denver Juvenile Court Case No. 15JD155 Honorable Donna J. Schmalberger, Judge

         Order Reversed en banc

          Attorneys for Petitioner-Appellant:

          Mitchell R. Morrissey, District Attorney, Second Judicial District Robert J. Whitley, Chief Appellate Deputy District Attorney Denver, Colorado

          Attorneys for Juvenile-Appellee:

          Douglas K. Wilson, Public Defender Ann M. Roan, Deputy Public Defender Denver, Colorado

          HOOD JUSTICE

          ¶1 In this interlocutory appeal, we examine how the Colorado legislature has sought to safeguard a juvenile's constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination. Through section 19-2-511(1), C.R.S (2016), the General Assembly has determined a juvenile cannot validly waive that right unless accompanied by a parent, guardian, legal or physical custodian, or an attorney. Here, the trial court suppressed a juvenile's incriminating statements to police, concluding that although his mother was present, she could not protect his right to remain silent because she did not share his interests. The People sought our review under C.A.R. 4.1. Because the plain language of section 19-2-511(1) requires only that a parent be present during the advisement and interrogation-and here the juvenile's mother was present-we reverse the suppression order.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         ¶2 On the evening of February 26, 2015, police received a report of a domestic disturbance involving then-sixteen-year-old A.L.-C. Officers arrived to find A.L.-C. feuding with his mother and stepfather on the first floor of the family home. Upstairs, A.L.-C.'s eleven-year-old sister, B.O., and a visiting aunt were also present. While police responded to the domestic disturbance, B.O. told the aunt that A.L.-C. had sexually assaulted her. Shortly thereafter, B.O. explained to her mother that in prior years, A.L.-C. had touched her inappropriately and had had intercourse with her. Her mother relayed this information to the officers handling the domestic disturbance, and B.O. repeated her allegations-this time to the police. The officers briefly detained A.L.-C. at the scene but then returned him to his mother and stepfather.

         ¶3 The following day, A.L.-C., his mother, and his stepfather traveled to the police station for questioning about the alleged sexual assaults. There, a detective and a Spanish interpreter advised the three of A.L.-C.'s rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966); see also In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 55 (1967) (extending to juveniles Miranda's safeguards against self-incrimination). The detective and interpreter then stepped out of the room to allow the family to discuss whether A.L.-C. would waive his rights. A videorecorder captured their exchange.

         ¶4 Initially, A.L.-C.'s stepfather explained that the detective wanted to know whether A.L.-C. understood his rights. His mother asked if he understood, and he nodded that he did. She also asked, "You know what you got yourself into, right?" Again, he nodded yes. His mother continued, "I don't know what they're going to do with you, son, but I have to protect [B.O.]. I tried, I tried many times to help you as much as possible, but, you didn't pay attention . . . . What do you have to say [for yourself]? Anything?" A.L.-C. replied that he was "always the liar, or the one lying" and told her he would rather keep quiet.

         ¶5 Whether he meant this as a refusal to speak with his mother or with the police is unclear. In any event, when the detective and interpreter re-entered the room a few minutes later, A.L.-C. and his mother both signed the Miranda waiver form. A.L.-C. also indicated that he understood his rights and agreed to discuss his sister's allegations. A.L.-C.'s stepfather left the room before the questioning began, but his mother remained for its entirety.

          ¶6 The detective questioned A.L.-C. for about an hour. At first, A.L.-C. denied B.O.'s allegations. After being confronted with details from an earlier forensic interview with B.O., however, he ...


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