The Kentucky Supreme Court is considering a case that could eventually require school principals to read students their Miranda rights during questioning.
The Miranda warning — you have the right to remain silent and anything you say can and will be used against you — would have be read when questioning a student in front of a school resource or safety officer, usually a sworn police officer, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal
The case under consideration stems from a 2009 incident in which a Kentucky high school teacher found an empty prescription bottle of pain pills, with a student’s name on it, on a restroom floor. A school resource officer, who was an armed deputy sheriff, and the school’s assistant principal, escorted the student to the principal’s office and questioned him with the door closed.
The student, according to the Courier-Journal, admitted to possessing three pain pills and to taking one because he had just had his wisdom teeth pulled. But he said he gave the other two pills to a classmate. As a result, the student was charged with illegally dispensing a controlled substance and sentenced to 45 days in jail.
The case is being appealed, based on the fact that the student was never read his Miranda rights or told that he was the subject of a criminal inquiry. His attorneys argue that by questioning him behind closed doors in the principal's office, with a police officer present, the student had actually been taken into custody without the freedom to leave.
Because Miranda warnings are required when a suspect is taken into custody, the state court must determine whether questioning in the principal’s office falls under that category.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that a child’s age must also be considered in determining whether a Miranda warning should be given. The top court said at the time that Miranda rights are read to keep subjects from being coerced into giving false confessions, something, the court noted, that children are often prone to do.
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