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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. KEVIN CHRISTMAS (09/26/83)

decided: September 26, 1983.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
KEVIN CHRISTMAS, APPELLEE



No. 81-3-380, Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court, dated September 5, 1980, Reversing the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, Imposed on Information No. 1058, October Session, 1978, and Remanding for a New Trial.

COUNSEL

Eric B. Henson, Deputy Dist. Atty., Kenneth S. Galant, Asst. Dist. Atty., Philadelphia, for appellant.

John W. Packel, Chief, Appeals Div., Karl Baker, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Roberts, C.j., and Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson and Zappala, JJ. Larsen, J., files a concurring opinion in which McDermott, J., joins. Hutchinson, J., files a concurring opinion in which McDermott, J., joins.

Author: Flaherty

[ 502 Pa. Page 220]

OPINION OF THE COURT

In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, the appellee, Kevin Christmas, was convicted of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. Judgment of sentence was set at one to seven years imprisonment. The Superior Court reversed and ordered the case remanded for a new trial,*fn1 on grounds that an inculpatory statement given by appellee should have been suppressed. We granted the Commonwealth's Petition for Allowance of Appeal.

[ 502 Pa. Page 221]

At the time of his arrest, appellee was approximately 17 years and 8 months of age. When appellee was transported to a police station, after having been arrested for being in possession of 744 packets of heroin, he was recognized by one of the officers on duty as the juvenile son of another police officer. Mr. Christmas, appellee's father, was immediately contacted, and, a short time later he arrived at the station, whereupon he conferred with his son, in private, for approximately 15 minutes. Next, Mr. Christmas emerged from the meeting and told the arresting officers that appellee wished to make a statement. In the presence of his father, appellee was then informed of his constitutional rights, waived them, and gave an inculpatory statement. A pre-trial motion to suppress the statement was denied, and the confession was admitted into evidence during trial. The sole issue on appeal is whether appellee's statement should have been suppressed under the rule of Commonwealth v. Page 221} McCutchen, 463 Pa. 90, 343 A.2d 669 (1975), on the narrow basis that the record fails to show that appellee's father was informed of appellee's constitutional rights.

In McCutchen,*fn2 this Court adopted a per se rule that no person under the age of eighteen years could effectively waive his constitutional rights to remain silent and to have the assistance of counsel without first being accorded an opportunity to consult with an adult who is interested in that juvenile's welfare, and who has been informed of the accused's rights. Commonwealth v. Riggs, 465 Pa. 208, 348 A.2d 429 (1975). These safeguards were adopted in recognition of the immaturity, lack of understanding, and susceptibility to influence, of youth. As stated in Commonwealth v. Smith, 472 Pa. 492, 498-499, 372 A.2d 797, 800 (1977) (footnote omitted),

The [McCutchen] rule appreciates that the inexperience of the minor affects not only his or her ability to understand the full implication and consequences of the predicament but also renders the judgment inadequate to assess the spectrum of considerations encompassed in the waiver decision. It was therefore reasoned that the impediment of immaturity can only be overcome where the record establishes that the youth had access to the advice of an attorney, parent, or other interested adult and that the consulted adult was informed as to the constitutional rights available to the minor and aware of the consequences that might follow the election to be made.

Further, in Commonwealth v. Thomas, 486 Pa. 568, 571, 406 A.2d 1037, 1038 (1979) (footnote omitted), we stated,

This Court's "interested adult" cases rest upon a concern that juvenile immaturity may preclude self-protection from overbearing police interrogation. The rule intends that overbearance may be avoided by consultation, with individuals such as a "lawyer, adult relative ...


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