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Real Interrogation: What Actually Happens When Cops Question Kids


  • Barry C. Feld

  • The National Science Foundation #0813807 provided support to code and analyze these data. The editors and anonymous reviewers at LSR provided insightful comments and constructive criticism that helped to improve the final article. Ms. Jamie Buskirk, University of Minnesota Law School, Class of 2013, provided outstanding research assistance. Please address correspondence to Barry C. Feld, 340 Mondale Hall, University of Minnesota Law School, 229 19th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55455; e-mail:


Although the Supreme Court repeatedly cautioned that youthfulness adversely affects juveniles' ability to exercise Miranda rights or make voluntary statements, it endorsed the adult waiver standard—knowing, intelligent, and voluntary—to gauge juveniles' Miranda waivers. By contrast, developmental psychologists question whether young people understand or possess the competence necessary to exercise Miranda rights. This article analyzes quantitative and qualitative data of interrogations of three hundred and seven (307) sixteen- and seventeen-year old youths charged with felony offenses. It reports how police secure Miranda waivers, the tactics they use to elicit information, and the evidence youths provide. The findings bear on three policy issues—procedural safeguards for youths, time limits for interrogations, and mandatory recording of interrogations.