The Costs of Youth: Voluntary Searches and the Law’s Failure to Meaningfully Account for Age

The United States Supreme Court paved the way for comprehensive juvenile-justice reform during the sentencing phase when it announced its decisions in Roper, Graham, and Miller. The decisions made clear that juveniles are constitutionally different than adults under the Eighth Amendment. Yet these protections have not been extended to consent searches under the Fourth Amendment, where the consequences impact far more juveniles. Many states offer protections for juveniles in other areas of law, such as statutory rape, marriage, medical decisions, and contracts. Yet very few states have given any meaningful consideration to youthfulness in determining whether a juvenile has granted voluntary consent. This Note examines the Eighth Amendment decisions that have provided juveniles with added protections for sentencing and argues that courts should give more consideration to youthfulness under the Fourth Amendment. Regardless of whether courts extend the concept that juveniles are constitutionally different, this Note argues that state legislatures should enact statutes that grant these protections.