Katie's Blog

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

California’s Department of Juvenile Justice: Violence & Neglect

juvenile justice
The new year brought a new California governor, Gavin Newsom, and with him a plan to move the Division of Juvenile Justice to the state’s Health and Human Services Agency. Transitioning juvenile justice away from the corrections departments may result in significant changes for the better, but only time will tell. This Governor’s announcement came just before the release of a report highlighting severe issues at the four juvenile detention state facilities.

Data from the Division of Juvenile Justice et al. indicates that the state’s 650 incarcerated youths are 20 times more likely to have experienced use of force by staffers, compared to adult prisoners, Mother Jones reports. Moreover, over the last three-years, beatings have increased dramatically, juvenile detention staffers have become more aggressive, and attempted suicides are on the rise.

Up until February 2016, the California juvenile justice system seemed to be doing relatively well in regard to its handling of youth offenders. The reason being is that a 2003 lawsuit settlement led to a court-appointed special master who monitored the division to ensure the DJJ was treating youth detainees humanely, offering adequate medical care, and providing rehabilitative programs. More than ten years of oversight led a state court judge to rule that the agency was compliant and the special master no longer necessary. In three short years, a lot appears to have changed.

Use of Force Jumps Three-Fold


The alarming report indicates that youths housed in juvenile detention facilities were 49 percent more likely to be assaulted, compared to the special masters final year of oversight, according to the article. Researchers found that nearly a third of detainees have experienced a violent incident each month; and, youths involved in riots rose 13 percent in the year following the end of court monitoring. 

Almost all young offenders interviewed for the report shared having witnessed or being subject to guard on inmate violence personally. DJJ use of force tripled in the year following the end of court monitoring. The analysis from the inspector general found that 45 percent of such incidents, including the use of pepper spray, were out of compliance with the agency’s policies.

State facilities saw three attempted suicides between August 2015 to July 2016. In the year following the end of the special master’s monitoring, there were ten attempted suicides. Youths interviewed for the report stated too often their medical needs were not taken seriously, and they were subject to long waits to receive care. In response to the startling findings, Ike Dodson, a DJJ spokesman, said in a statement to Mother Jones:

“While we acknowledge that the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) works with some of California’s most challenged youth, DJJ has been on the frontline of reforming the way juveniles serve their time through education, programs, effective treatment and mental health services.” 

We will continue to follow what comes of this report, but it seems likely some reforms will be on the horizon.


Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney


Juvenile defense attorney Katie Walsh goes to significant lengths to ensure each of her client's cases stands out from the others. Aided by her previous experience as a juvenile prosecutor, she is uniquely equipped to advocate for families whose children are facing legal difficulties. Please contact us today to learn how we can help you obtain the best possible outcomes.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Expanding Ban On Willful Defiance Suspensions

willful defiance suspensions
School “disruption and defiance” is a subject we follow closely at The Law Offices of Katie Walsh. Disruption is probably self-explanatory; willful defiance is defined as: “disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the valid authority of school staff.” In the State of California, a 2014 law prohibits K-3 out-of-school suspensions for the above type of offense.

Since 2014, several lawmakers have come out in favor of expanding the ban on disruption and defiance suspensions. Many experts contend that removing kids from classrooms for disrupting class fuels what has come to be known as the “school-to-prison” pipeline. Moreover, the data indicate that these types of suspensions disproportionately affect blacks and Latinos, LGBT students, and students with disabilities.

“When you look at the data on who is suspended, you can’t help but see the stark reality,” Sen. Nancy Skinner tells EdSource. “Boys of color, kids in special education, LGBTQ kids — kids who don’t fit all of our cultural norms — are targeted due to the implicit bias that we know is present in every institution we have.”

In many instances, students are acting up because of family issues at home or untreated mental health issues. Extricating a student from the classroom or school entirely, for lengths of time, is unlikely to address the underlying problems the adolescent or teenager is facing. Expanding the ban on specific types of out-of-school suspensions could lead to more kids getting support and guidance. Alternative means of discipline could help children learn to cope with their issues healthily rather than acting out for attention.

Arguments For and Against Disruption and Defiance Bans


Those against expanding the ban of willful defiance suspensions argue that it strips teachers of the power to keep order and that it infringes on the other (disciplined) students right to learn without constant distraction. The camp for expansion say that suspending students for merely acting up puts them on a course to more problems, Education Dive reports. The divergent opinions on this subject will soon be in the spotlight once again, owing that is to legislation re-introduced by California State Sen. Nancy Skinner.

Last October, former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill 607; a bill that would have expanded “disruption and defiance” out-of-school suspensions to include K-8. Sen. Skinner always wanted the ban to include K-12, but she didn’t believe Gov. Brown would support; so, she settled for a bill narrower in scope. Even still, Brown rejected the proposal. Now, with Brown out of office, Sen. Skinner hopes that Gov. Gavin Newsom will support her cause.

Senate Bill 419: Pupil discipline: suspensions: willful defiance would ban out-of-school suspensions for “defiant and disruptive behavior” in grades K-12. The bill, until January 1, 2025, would prohibit the suspension of a student in any of grades 9 to 12, inclusive, for those acts. The five-year period (sunset clause) will give officials time to determine the effectiveness of alternative discipline measures with high-schoolers.

“The point of the evaluation is to make sure that the removal of this tool (suspensions) is not impacting classrooms or teachers in a negative way,” Skinner said. 

The Governor’s office has yet to comment on SB 419.


Orange County School Expulsion Attorney


Juvenile defense attorney Katie Walsh can help your family navigate the school discipline process. If your child is facing school expulsion, then please contact us at your earliest convenience. Katie Walsh will work tirelessly to safeguard your child’s rights and seek alternatives to school expulsion for your son or daughter.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Mental Health, Expulsions, and School Shootings

school shooting
At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we are acutely familiar with the school-to-prison pipeline that is the reality of many young Americans. Problems students experience in the classroom are often dealt with in punitive ways, starting with suspension and potentially moving on to expulsion. In more severe cases, certain offenses committed at school can result in police intervention.

Schools lacking the resources to advocate for troubled children will usually turn to punitive measures. However, in states like California, there has been a push in recent years to address the needs of children who act up without resorting to suspension and expulsion.

Data shows that young people who face problems at home are likely to bring them into the classroom. Merely booting a child from class may return order to the school, but it is expected to disrupt the life of the child facing difficulties even more. Intervention techniques that don’t involve removing children from class can significantly help a struggling student; and, they may prevent a worst-case scenario from unfolding down the road. The reality is that many teenagers are dealing with myriad problems, including a mental health condition; kicking such teens out of the classroom can and has resulted in the unthinkable.

Preventing School Shooting In America


School shootings are not a new phenomenon; nor are they uncommon. From the Columbine High School shooting to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre last year, it is clear that these kinds of tragic events are on the rise. Today, it is difficult to think of a state that hasn’t been touched by student-on-student or student-on-teacher murder. Moreover, it is challenging to make sense of what could drive a young person to commit such heinous acts.

Experts work hard to look for answers in a sea of data that is murky at best. Those who bring a weapon to school with the intention to harm come from various backgrounds and face their own unique set of circumstances. Recently, NPR’s Rhitu Chatterjee probed the depths of school shootings in America—helping the average listener make sense of these senseless acts.

The radio program points out, right off the bat, that there were 25 school shootings last year; more than 60 people were injured, and 33 children and adults lost their lives in those incidents. We invite you to listen to the program below before reading further:


If you are having trouble listening, please click here.

Several experts weigh in in an accompanying article to the radio program. Some common things begin to emerge among people who shed blood in public schools, including childhood trauma and mental illness. What’s more, a 2004 study by the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education found that nearly three-quarters of school shooters had been bullied or harassed at school. Chatterjee points out that suspending or expelling students who are showing worrisome signs is not the solution. Instead, school violence can be prevented by support and guidance.

“Connecting with these students, listening to them and supporting them, getting them the help they need, these researchers say, can help prevent future attacks and make schools a safer place for all children.”

School Expulsions Attorney


If your son or daughter is at risk of being expelled from school, then it is vital for parents to know that they have options. Attorney Katie Walsh has the experience to advocate for your family and potentially keep disciplinary action from derailing your child’s life. Please contact our office for a free consultation.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

California Juvenile Detention Centers Using Pepper Spray

juvenile detention
Pepper spray, like mace, is a non-lethal form of restraint that law enforcement agents utilize on a regular basis. The ingredients result in inflammation of the eyes and lungs, causing temporary vision loss and shortness of breath. Once disabled, officers are better able to restrain subjects. While the agent is less-than-lethal, there are instances when the chemical agent is a contributing factor in premature death.

In California, juvenile detention facility guidelines permit staffers to use pepper spray or oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray, only as a last resort to de-escalate difficult situations, Los Angeles Daily News reports. However, a new report from the Los Angeles County’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) finds that officers are relying on pepper spray to subdue juveniles at an alarming rate, often using the lachrymatory agent unnecessarily.

The report was conducted at the behest of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (Board). The call for an investigation came after revelations brought to light last year that incidents involving oleoresin capsicum spray in juvenile detention facilities skyrocketed more than 150 percent from 2015 to 2017. The OIG report cites instances of juveniles being subjected to OC and are then left in their rooms without assistance, forced to rely on toilet water to clean/remove the oleoresin capsicum from their skin and eyes.

Initial or Intermediary Force Option


According to the report, thirty-five states have banned the use of OC spray in juvenile facilities. California is just one of six states that allow the use of pepper spray on youths housed in detention centers. Such facilities include Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall, Central Juvenile Hall, Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, Camp Ellison Onizuka, and Camp Ronald McNair. There are California counties that prohibit juvenile detention officers from deploying OC, encouraging the use of other de-escalation techniques instead, i.e., San Francisco County, Santa Cruz County, Marin County, and Santa Clara County.

The OIG report underscores the need for more de-escalation training, especially in Los Angeles County. Cathleen Beltz, assistant inspector general, said the goal is to reduce or eliminate the use of OC within LA County’s juvenile facilities. The investigators found consistent use of OC spray as an “initial or intermediary force option, rather than as one that follows a failure to de-escalate or the use of less significant force.”

“The fundamental issue here is not about the tools that staff use,” said Terri McDonald, LA County chief probation officer. “The question is, how can we create a culture or environment in which force is a rarity?” 

McDonald adds that the department will not tolerate “unnecessary or excessive force in our facilities…A single case of abuse of our youth is one too many.” The chief probation officer is not opposed to doing away with the use of OC, “But a change of this magnitude will require thoughtful analysis, planning, training, and potentially increased resources to ensure institutional safety.”

California Juvenile Defense Attorney


As a former juvenile prosecutor, attorney Katie Walsh has the experience and understanding of the law to advocate for your son or daughter who is facing legal trouble. Please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh for a free consultation and to learn how she will use her expertise to defend and achieve a favorable outcome for your loved one.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

New Laws Affecting California Juveniles

school expulsion
School suspension and expulsion rates is a topic of significant concern in the United States. The data tells us that when young people are excluded from participating in class, due to behavioral issues, they are at severe risk of facing problems later in life. Evidence shows that discipline inside the classroom, as well as outside the classroom, can have lasting impacts on children.

Teachers have incredibly challenging jobs. On average, they have to keep as many as 30 young people in line for hours at a time and to ensure that they learn the skills to move forward. Having just one disruptive student in the classroom can affect the experience of all other students. In the past, the standard protocol would be to separate unruly students from the well-behaved. Continued infractions often result in suspension and/or expulsion for severe cases.

Here in California, a number of laws have been passed in recent years to help put an end to the school-to-prison pipeline. SB 439 establishes 12 years as the minimum age for prosecution in juvenile court. SB 1391 makes it unlawful to try youths under the age of 16 as an adult.

In 2014, a law was enacted to ban the suspension of students in grades K-3 for acts of “disruption and defiance.” Last year, California Senator Nancy Skinner attempted to get Senate Bill 607 signed by Governor Jerry Brown, which would have expanded the 2014 law up to eighth grade. Unfortunately, Governor Brown did not go along with the expansion, but it is likely that the effort to end disruption and defiance suspensions will continue.

Positive New Laws Affecting Young People In California


While former Gov. Brown did not get on board with SB 607, he did sign Assembly Bill 752. The legislation prohibits state-funded preschools from expelling students, Voice of OC report. This year, preschoolers can be expelled, only after all other alternatives to support the children or family have been exhausted.

Assembly Bill (AB) 2698 is another piece of legislation of note; it increases access to critical early childhood mental health consultation services for infants and toddlers. The bill puts more mental health consultants into publicly funded preschools and child care centers.

 “As a teacher of 30 years in Orange County, I was able to gain profound insight into the importance of meeting the needs of our young children and their families. Improving services to support early childhood education will always remain a priority,” said Assemblywoman Quirk-Silva.


California Juvenile Justice Attorney


Please contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh if your child is facing a school expulsion hearing in California. Attorney Walsh is a former prosecutor who is familiar with the juvenile court system. Our team can answer your school expulsion questions and advocate for your family.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

California Juvenile Justice May Be Overseen by Cal. HHS

juvenile justice
Published research tells us that the brains of young people are not fully developed. Meaning, partially, youths are at risk of making life-changing decisions without fully grasping what can result. Many criminal and juvenile justice advocates claim that the current method of handling teenagers who break the law is woefully inappropriate. Moreover, many voters in California tend to agree.

In recent years, spanning back to the early 2000s, juvenile justice in the Golden State has been undergoing several shake-ups. Laws have been passed to shift away from punitive measures and embrace rehabilitation for most infractions. Just over a decade ago there were 11 state-run juvenile justice detention facilities; today, there are only four centers housing only young people with the most severe charges, the Los Angeles Times reports. All other youth offenders are either on probation or housed in county juvenile halls.

In 2017, then Governor Jerry Brown signed Proposition 57 which, among other things, prohibits prosecutors from charging youths in adult court without a judge's consent. What’s more, Brown signed legislation to lighten punishments; the goal is to get young people off a path to adult prison. In 2019, with a new Governor at the helm of California legislation, more juvenile justice reforms are on the horizon.

HHS Could Take Control of California’s Juvenile Justice Division


Health and human services providers could soon take over control of overseeing California’s nearly 700 young offenders, if Governor Gavin Newsom’s plan comes to fruition, according to the article. These juveniles and young adults have remarkable legal records; and, many of them contend with severe mental and medical health needs. The majority of the more than 660 offenders are confined to detention camps in Pine Grove, Stockton, and Camarillo.

“This is about setting a new mark,” said Gov. Newsom. “We are committed about ending the juvenile justice system as we know it once and for all.”

Under the proposed plan, the California Health and Human Services Agency (HHS) are tasked with better preparing young people for release through a combination of educational, mental health, and social services, the article reports. With Legislature approval, Gov. Newsom hopes to make the handover from corrections officials to the HHS as early as July. The move to HHS from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation would put California closer in line with most others states.

California is currently one of the ten states whose juvenile justice division falls under a state corrections agency; 40 states operate like what Gov. Newsom is proposing. California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris says the new model will help address early childhood trauma and prevent young people from having run-ins with the law. 

“Really looking at what we can do for our young folks who are most vulnerable is really critical,” said Dr. Harris.

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney


At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we will continue to follow this story as it develops in the coming months. Juvenile defense attorney Katie Walsh is committed to helping young people, and their loved ones overcome legal trouble. Please contact us today to learn more about how Attorney Walsh can advocate for your family.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

New Minor Driving Privileges and Interlock Device Laws

Driving Under The Influence
Driving under the influence is a severe offense in the State of California, even when nobody is injured. Those who are convicted of a DUI often pay enormous fines and are required to serve some jail time and lose their license for varying lengths of time. Each case is different, and punishments may look different from one county to the next.

While DUI laws change from time to time, one trend has held true, and that is the repercussions for intoxicated driving seem only to get more severe. This is especially the case for individuals who get more than one DUI citation in less than ten years. Such people face lengthy stays in jail and hefty fines that are sure to make an impression on any person’s wallet.

In recent years, the use of ignition interlock devices or IIDs has become standard in many states, including California. In 2019, Californians should understand that some legal changes are affecting both minors and adults who operate motor vehicles. Two laws, in particular, are worth noting.

Minor Driving Privileges and Ignition Interlock Devices


The New Year brought with it changes to rules regarding the use of ignition interlock devices. Such instruments prevent someone from operating a motor vehicle if they have alcohol in their system; the device also saves information regarding attempts to start a car while intoxicated which could lead to new problems for said motorists. Senate Bill 1046 extended an IID pilot program through January 1, 2026, to the entire state. The pilot program previously was only in force in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare counties. The law also mandates repeat DUI offenders and some first offenders (DUIs resulting in injury), to install an IID in their car for between12 to 48 months. The California Department of Motor Vehicles writes that:

This law also allows those who receive a suspension under the Administrative Per Se law to obtain an IID-restricted driving privilege, and receive credit toward their required IID restriction period if they are later convicted of a DUI. These provisions apply to DUI violations that involve alcohol or the combined use of alcohol and drugs. They do not apply to drug-only violations. Additionally, courts have the discretion to order a non-injury first DUI offender to install an IID for a period of up to 6 months. If the court does not order IID installation, a non-injury first offender may apply for a driver license for IID restrictions or restrictions that allow them to drive to, from, and during their employment and to and from a DUI treatment program for 12 months. 

While .08 is the legal limit for adult drivers, California has a “Zero Tolerance” Underage DUI Law. People below the legal age to drink caught behind the wheel will face charges.

Another law affecting Californians starting in 2019 pertains to the driving privileges of minors. Assembly Bill 2685 repealed Section 13202.7 of the Vehicle Code, a rule allowing juvenile courts to suspend, restrict or delay the issuance of a driver license of habitual truants or ward of the state for up to one year. Truancy no longer affects driving privileges, but the DMV makes clear that any suspensions or delays reported before January 1, 2019, remain in effect.

Orange County DUI Attorney


One aspect of DUIs that most first-time offenders are unaware of is the DMV component of the offense. Intoxicated driving is a crime that is handled in the courts. However, the right to drive is managed by the DMV. There is a separate DMV hearing that DUI recipients have a right to, and it is essential that DUI defendants hire an attorney who understands the DMV portion of a drunk driving case.

If you or your minor child is facing charges for driving under the influence, please contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh. Attorney Walsh has the expertise to help you navigate the process and to help bring about a favorable outcome.