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New rule: Detained kids must see a lawyer before speaking to cops

Prison jail bars
Flickr Photo/Thomas Hawk (CC BY NC 2.0)/

Young people who are detained by law enforcement in King County can no longer waive their right to an attorney on their own.

On Monday, the King County Council unanimously approved a motion meant to ensure that young people in custody are fully informed when deciding whether to talk to law enforcement.

The new ordinance requires kids detained at the Juvenile Detention Center in Seattle to get advice from an attorney first.

Councilmember Dave Upthegrove introduced the measure. He called it a small but important step toward King County’s commitment to equity and social justice.

“In my mind we really have two justice systems," Upthegrove said. "One for people who have the means and one for people who don’t. And too often it’s folks from communities of color that are statistically less likely to have the means.”

Also, psychologists say there’s an increasing body of evidence that shows kids in detention aren’t capable of making that choice to speak with law enforcement on their own. 

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg opposed the measure. He said it could prevent law enforcement officers from talking with victims of sex trafficking away from their pimps.

The ACLU and many public defenders spoke in support of the measure.