Do school officials have to read Miranda rights before questioning a student who violated the law?

By law, Miranda warnings do not have to be given unless you are in custody. In the context of Miranda rights, custody has a narrow meaning: either you have been placed under formal arrest, or the circumstances are such that a reasonable person might think that they are under arrest, meaning they believe they are not free to leave. However, a teacher, acting on her own, does not have the authority to place an individual under arrest. This means that when a teacher questions you at school, without law enforcement present, she does not have to read you your Miranda warnings.

Yet certain school officials, such as a school resource officer, are associated with law enforcement. Some courts have held that if the school official acts as an agent of law enforcement, they must read the Miranda rights to the child. This also means that if you are in the custody of a school resource officer, and the teacher asks you questions in front of them, the teacher may also then be acting as an agent of law enforcement.

For example, say the school resource officer approaches you in the schoolyard and takes you into a room with a teacher. If, at that point, the teacher starts questioning you about whether you were involved in something illegal, Miranda rights should probably have been read aloud. In such a situation, agents of the law are present and you are in a closed room, so you may feel like you cannot leave, even if they say you can. The presence of an agent of law enforcement in a custodial situation makes it more likely that the law requires your Miranda rights to be read.

Age Must Be Considered in the Custody Analysis

Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court recently held that a child’s age must be taken into consideration when determining if the child believed he or she was in custody for Miranda violation purposes. For example, if an officer or law enforcement agent takes an 11-year-old child into a room to talk to him, the child may feel that he cannot leave, even if the officer says that he can. Courts are now more likely to find that children in these situations were in custody, and thus that Miranda rights should have been read if any questioning occurred. On the other hand, if an adult is told that they can leave the room at any time, a court is less likely to find that the adult was in custody.

If you or your child were questioned at school about an illegal activity, were not given Miranda warnings, and are now facing criminal charges, contact a criminal defense attorney right away to ensure that your rights are protected.