Commentary: Attacks on interrogation law ignore everything we know about children

Jessica Feierman and Emily Virgin, The Baltimore Banner •
table and chair in a dimly lit room

No one is served by a child’s false confession: The perpetrator of the crime remains unidentified, an innocent young person is locked up, and our communities are no safer. In 2022, the Maryland General Assembly came up with a common-sense solution, enacting the Child Interrogation Protection Act. Unfortunately, it’s already under attack.


The new law established reasonable procedures to prevent false confessions and protect young people from coercion during interrogation. The law requires police to allow a child to consult with an attorney before facing an interrogation unless a public safety emergency necessitates immediate questioning. Police must also give notice to parents if their child has been taken into custody, a common-sense protection that supports parents caring for their children.


The new law only applies when a young person is in custody, when the child is not free to leave and most likely to feel coerced to speak. As always, police may engage with young people in informal conversations not designed to elicit confessions.


This thoughtful legislation is now under attack by some in law enforcement and by prosecutors whose arguments largely boil down to “the law makes our job harder.” It’s true, being able to coerce false confessions would make the jobs of police and prosecutors simpler, but that’s not what our community needs or our Constitution demands.


About the Expert

Jessica Feierman oversees Juvenile Law Center’s projects and programs. Feierman currently leads a national effort to end fines and fees in the juvenile justice system and is engaged in litigation aimed at eliminating solitary confinement and other abusive practices in juvenile facilities.