Appeals Court (November 19, 2007)
A foster parent is qualified to act as an "interested adult" for Miranda purposes.
The defendant, a juvenile, was questioned by the police about a recent fire at a local Mosque. At that time, the defendant was in the custody of the Department of Social Services (DSS) and placed in the care of a foster family. The defendant's foster mother was present during the police interrogation of the juvenile. In Commonwealth v. Leon, 52 Mass. App. Ct. 823 (2001), the Supreme Judicial Court held that when questioning a juvenile, who has attained the age of fourteen, the police must provide a genuine opportunity for a meaningful consultation with an interested adult prior to obtaining a Miranda Waiver. Here, the officers read Miranda warnings to the defendant in the presence of his foster mother and both the defendant and his foster mother signed Miranda waiver forms. Before questioning began, the defendant was allowed to consult privately with his foster mother. During questioning, the defendant made incriminating statements to the police officers. The defendant was charged as a youthful offender and convicted, among other offenses, of burning a building.
The defendant appealed his conviction arguing that his foster mother was acting as an instrument of the State and thus her role as an "interested adult" was compromised when he was questioned by the police. The Appeals court disagreed reasoning that although foster parents have a contractual relationship with DSS and are not afforded many of the rights and privileges of parents or guardians, they are nevertheless tasked with providing care to children and this role fits within the duties of an interested adult.