This is based on a situation early in the novel The Witness by Norah Roberts.

Suppose that a sixteen-year-old girl (E) witnessed a serious crime, in fact a double murder, apparently by an organized crime figure. E reports the crime to the police, gives a detailed statement, and identifies pictures of those involved from photo-spreads. The people she identifies are known to the police as active members of an organized crime group.

At this point E's mother (S) arrives at the place where E is being interviewed. S, who is the sole custodial parent of E, demands that E come home with her, and that she not go off with the US Marshalls to a safe house, and not prepare to testify.

S is well-off, and can afford to hire private security, and a good lawyer.

This all happens in the city of Chicago (or more exactly, one of its neighborhoods, Lincoln Park) in the state of Illinois, in the US.

Can S legally insist on E coming with her, over the objections of both E and the US Marshals and police? Can S obtain a court order requiring the Marshalls to surrender custody of E to S?

Update I should have mentioned that the police and representatives of the US Marshal's service believe, and state to S, that E is in serious danger from the organized crime group involved.

  • Does S being the sole custodial parent of E mean that E is not emancipated?
    – forest
    Jun 14, 2022 at 0:55
  • 1
    @forest Yes it does, or at least she in fact is not emancipated. Jun 14, 2022 at 1:03
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    Under modern procedure, would the police even start such an interview without a parent present? Jun 14, 2022 at 6:35
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    @SoronelHaetir yes, they will and they do. Even if they're breaking some law, they are covered by Qualified Immunity until a court says they don't, which often do not happen. There's plenty of stories of cops talking to minors without following procedure and obtaining parental clearance. Especially in this particular case, the minor was the one to approach law enforcement. Jun 14, 2022 at 16:06
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    Aside from the the question of law, I wonder if child protective services would become involved once it is clear that the mother is willing to expose the child to criminal danger.
    – xLeitix
    Jun 15, 2022 at 11:50

1 Answer 1


E can leave at any time

E is not detained and there is no basis to detain her. As a child, that decision can be made by a parent.

E can be subpoenaed to testify but she does not have to talk to law enforcement (and would be wise not to).

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Dale M
    Jun 14, 2022 at 22:47
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    I can't downvote, but you are not answering the question. The question is can a child who wants to help police, continue helping police, or can the parent force her to leave, and police have no chance to use the help the child wanted to give?
    – Boat
    Jun 15, 2022 at 11:32
  • @Boat I thought the same thing at first, but the answer is in there, in the second sentence of the first paragraph: "As a child, that decision can be made by a parent", which is what the question was asking. The answer would be greatly improved by adding that information to the bolded summary at the top of the answer.
    – Nobody
    Jun 15, 2022 at 12:02
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    @Nobody IMHO a better bolded summary would be "Yes, S, the parent of E, can force E to come with them and not help the police further". Right now it sounds like the answer is answering the question "can E avoid helping the police" instead of the question "can a parent force their child from helping the police while the child is willingly doing so".
    – GACy20
    Jun 15, 2022 at 12:45
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    @Nobody as I commented earlier (which seems to have been gobbled by the auto migration to chat), this answer addresses the explicit question, but misses the implicit followup of whether E has a right to return on her own volition against the wishes of S
    – Tristan
    Jun 15, 2022 at 12:48

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