February 16, 2006, 16:21Thor Schmidt
Seizure of Mail in Detention
I have a juvenile in detention whose only approved contact on her mail ist is her mother. We know that she is corresponding with other juveniles through her mother. These other juveniles include family members and friends. We also have information, including a note confiscated from her by the detention staff, that she is trying to get other kids to help her create false evidence to exonerate her and to intimidate witnesses.
Since confiscating the aforementioned note, the detention facility has been holding her mail, but has not opened or examined it. Do I need an evidentiary warrant to seize and examine it for inculpatory information? My research tells me no, but I haven't found a lot on the topic and I want to be sure.
February 17, 2006, 15:00Stacey L. Brownlee
Not anything out there on juvi mail that I know of.
My best guess would be that they have no greater or lessor right to privacy than an adult in jail.
I would say however that your juvenile facility should probably have a procedure for "monitoring" incoming and outgoing mail. Most people I think would be surprised at what the little darlings and their parents will send in the mail !
February 27, 2006, 08:36ccoker4
According to Texas Administrative Code 343.11 (c) you will need a search warrant to read the contents of the letter. If the search warrant is denied then then by standards the letter should be delivered to the juvenile. Many detention facilities will have the parents generate a list of approved indivduals the juvenile may write. If they are not on the list the letter shall be placed unopened in the juveniles property and given to them when released. The juvenile needs to be informed of the letter and explained why it was withheld. Also by this standard you may ask the juveniles permission to read the letter in question.
February 27, 2006, 12:36Stacey L. Brownlee
I absolutely agree that is what applies to "facility staff" as stated in the TAC but not certain how that same would apply to law enforcement and I couldn't find any juvi specific case law.