The Superior Court has decided the case of In re: N.B., No. 527 WDA 2016 (March 8, 2017), holding that it was error for the juvenile court to conflate the actions of N.B.’s mother with conduct that is prohibited by law enforcement in obtaining inculpatory statements from her juvenile son. 

N.B.’s mother received information from her daughter that N.B. and his twin brother, D.B., who were 14 years old, had engaged in sexual conduct with a nine-year-old female who lived in an adjacent apartment. Mother confronted the boys, both of whom confirmed the allegations. Mother then reported the conduct to the boys’ school district and, in response, police were contacted and requested the boys be brought to the police station for an interview.

Based on the inculpatory statements elicited during that interview, the Commonwealth filed a written allegation of delinquency. On December 1, 2015, N.B.’s attorney filed a motion to suppress which the juvenile court granted after considering “most strongly” N.B.’s own testimony that he believed he was forced to be there by his mother and that he was directed to confess. Specifically, the juvenile court the juvenile court determined that N.B.’s statements should be suppressed because N.B. participated in the interview under compulsion of a parent and his disclosure were, therefore, not voluntary.

The Commonwealth appealed, arguing that the juvenile court erred in granting N.B.’s motion to suppress because the totality of the circumstances demonstrated that N.B.’s confession was made voluntarily.

The Superior Court explained that, in evaluating whether a statement to police satisfies the requirements of due process, the court is constrained to examine only whether an individual’s confession was the product of coercion, duress, or the use of other measures by interrogators (as opposed to parents of juveniles) that is deliberately calculated to overcome the juvenile’s free will.

In this case, N.B.’s mother brought N.B. to the police station and advised him to tell the truth. However, the Superior Court found that these actions could not be reasonably interpreted to rise to the level of coercion such that suppression is warranted. Additionally, the appellate court found the juvenile court erred in conflating the actions of Mother with conduct that would be prohibited by law enforcement.

Accordingly, since the record demonstrated that the statements during N.B.’s interview were made knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily, the Superior Court held that it was error for the juvenile to grant N.B.’s motion to suppress.


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