In the State of Iowa, a juvenile (anyone under the age of 18) who has been taken into custody for an indictable offense, possesses more rights than an adult in a similar situation. Pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.11, any juvenile that has been taken into custody for a serious or aggravated misdemeanor or felony offense, has the absolute right to an attorney following being placed into custody and during any questioning or interrogation. "Custody" is given the same meaning as it has been given in adult cases which is: being formally arrested or "otherwise deprived of freedom of action in any significant way."
After being taken into custody, a juveniles right to an attorney is the same as an adults. However, additional rights come into play regarding a juveniles right to contact and consult with his/her parents immediately upon being placed into custody. Once placed in custody a child not only has the right to the services of an attorney, but law enforcement is legally obligated to make a good faith effort to notify the child's parent, guardian, or custodian. When the parent, guardian, or custodian is contacted, the officer must advise them of the following:
1. That the child has been taken into custody;
2. The nature and charge of the "delinquent act";
3. The child's location; and
4. That the parent, guardian, or custodian have the right to visit and confer with the child before anything further takes place.
A juveniles rights to an attorney and to contact and confer with parents, guardians, or custodians cannot be waived by any child under the age of 16. A juvenile 16 years or older can waive these rights, however, a waiver may ONLY be obtained after they are permitted to contact, visit or confer with their parents, guardian or custodian, or after a good faith effort has been made to contact the juveniles parents, guardian or custodian.
In addition to making sure that a juvenile has the immediate right to an attorney and to contact their parents, this law is protected by the exclusionary rule. In other words, if law enforcement does not comply with the requirements of Section 232.11, all evidence that they obtain following the violation is suppressed and thrown out of court. Likewise in zero tolerance (.02) violations or operating while intoxicated cases, the Department of Transportation may not suspend a juveniles driving privileges if a test result is obtained following the violation.
The protections of Iowa Code section 232.11 are important for all juveniles as well as parents to know, understand, and appreciate, because while we do not ever expect our children to find themselves on the wrong side of the law, these rights just might preserve their freedom at some point down the road. Know your rights, exercise your rights, preserve your freedom.