The Right to Remain a Child: The Impermissibility of the Reid Technique in Juvenile Interrogations

November
2017
Ariel Spierer

Police interrogations in the United States are focused on one thing: getting a confession from the suspect. The Reid Technique, a guilt-presumptive nine-step method and the most common interrogation technique in the country, is integral to fulfilling this goal. With guidance from the Reid Technique, interrogators use coercion and deceit to extract confessions—regardless of the costs. When used with juvenile suspects, this method becomes all the more problematic. The coercion and deception inherent in the Reid Technique, coupled with the recognized vulnerabilities and susceptibilities of children as a group, has led to an unacceptably high rate of false confessions among juvenile suspects. And, when a juvenile falsely confesses as the result of coercive interrogation tactics, society ultimately suffers a net loss.

In the Eighth Amendment context, the Supreme Court has recognized that children are different from adults and must be treated differently in various areas of the criminal justice system. The Court’s recent Eighth Amendment logic must now be extended to the Fifth Amendment context to require that juveniles be treated differently in the interrogation room, as well. This Note suggests that the Reid Technique be categorically banned from juvenile interrogations through a constitutional ruling from the Court. Doing so would not foreclose juvenile interrogation; rather, a more cooperative and less coercive alternative could be utilized, such as the United Kingdom’s PEACE method. Nonetheless, only a categorical constitutional rule that prohibits the use of the Reid Technique in all juvenile interrogations will eliminate the heightened risk of juvenile false confessions and truly safeguard children’s Fifth Amendment rights. 

This article appears in the November 2017 Issue: Volume 92, Number 5