Admissibility of Juvenile Written Statements In Texas

In Comer v. State, 776 S.W.2d 191 (Tex. Crim. App. 1989), the Court of Criminal Appeals recognized the conflict between Family Code section 52.02 (the duty of an officer to immediately transport a child in custody to a juvenile processing office) and section 51.09(b) (the right of a child to waive his constitutional rights while in custody and give a statement in response to questioning). Comer, 776 S.W.2d at 196. The court harmonized these provisions by holding that the legislature intended that the officer designated by the juvenile court should be the one to make the decision whether to subject a child to custodial interrogation. Id. Therefore, the officer must take the child to a juvenile processing center without taking the child anywhere else. Id. at 194. In Comer, the juvenile was not taken to a juvenile processing office before he went before a magistrate and signed a written confession. Id. at 193. Thus, the court held that the written statement, although admissible under section 51.09, was not admissible because the officer did not strictly comply with section 52.02(a). Id. at 196. In Comer, the court did not preclude taking a custodial statement; rather, the court said "the officer designated by the juvenile court [should] make the initial decision [concerning] custodial interrogation." Comer, 776 S.W.2d at 196. Furthermore, in Melendez v. State, the San Antonio Court of Appeals said that the Family Code does not prevent the admission of a statement made by a child if the statement does not stem from custodial interrogation: "Even when the suspect is in custody, the statement will still be admissible if it was not elicited by questioning or its counterparts." 873 S.W.2d 723, 725 (Tex. App.--San Antonio 1994, no pet.).