Katie's Blog

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

California Juvenile Justice Reform

Equity Justice Package
The proposed #EquityAndJustice2018 package includes several bills that could drastically change juvenile justice in California. If the legislative measure makes its way to the Governor’s desk, it could help put a stop to the juvenile justice to adult corrections pipeline. The group of bills includes SB 1391, SB 1392 and SB1393 introduced by Senators Ricardo Lara (D) Long Beach and Holly Mitchell (D) Los Angeles, according to Oakland Post. Thus far, the package has earned a stamp of approval from the Public Policy Committee and will now go before the Appropriations Committee. Hopefully, the series of bills will be received well.

Equity and Justice Package


SB 1391: “Existing law provides that, notwithstanding open course provisions in statute or regulations of the board of governors, the governing board of a community college district that provides classes for inmates of certain facilities may include the units of full-time equivalent students generated in those classes for purposes of state apportionments. This bill would repeal the authority of a district attorney to make a motion to transfer a minor from juvenile court to a court of criminal jurisdiction in a case in which a minor is alleged to have committed a specified serious offense when he or she was 14 or 15 years of age, thereby amending Proposition 57.

SB 1392: “Existing law imposes an additional 3-year sentence for each prior separate prison term served by a defendant where the prior and current offense was a violent felony, as defined. If that provision does not apply, existing law instead imposes a one-year term for each prior separate prison term or county jail felony term under the law, except under specified circumstances. This bill would delete the provision that requires an additional one-year term.

SB 1393: “Existing law requires the court, when imposing a sentence for a serious felony, in addition and consecutive to the term imposed for that serious felony, to impose a 5-year enhancement for each prior conviction of a serious felony. Existing law generally authorizes a judge, in the interests of justice, to order an action dismissed, but precludes a judge from striking any prior serious felony conviction in connection with imposition of the 5-year enhancement. This bill would delete the restriction prohibiting a judge from striking a prior serious felony conviction in connection with imposition of the 5-year enhancement described above and would make conforming changes.

Juvenile Justice Press Conference


Sens. Ricardo Lara and Holly J. Mitchell held a press conference to discuss the three bills mentioned above, as well as SB 1050. These new bills propose to reform juvenile and adult criminal sentencing. Please take some time to watch the video below:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Juvenile Defense Attorney


At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we specialize in juvenile law. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges, Attorney Walsh can assist you and your family in a number of ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Cannabis Legalization Affects Juveniles

marijuana
California has a long history of leading the way on legislative issues. Marijuana is no different; in 1996 California became the first state to successfully approve a measure allowing doctors to recommend cannabis use for patients with specific health conditions. Now, a little over twenty years since setting a historical precedent by taking a stance divergent from that of the Federal government, some 29 states and D.C. have medical marijuana programs.

The “green revolution” continues to sweep across the country. In 2012, Colorado and Washington's voters voted in favor of marijuana legalization, essentially decriminalizing the drug for adult personal use. Today, eight states (including California) allow adults to consume the contentious drug without fear of legal repercussions. Which begs the questions, what happens when minors are found using or possessing cannabis?

Marijuana, despite most Americans considering the drug benign, can cause serious harm to young people’s developing brains. In fact, researchers remain divided over the long-term repercussions of cannabis use, but most agree that young people have the most to lose. Just because a substance is deemed unhealthy, shouldn’t necessarily mean that young people found with the drug should find themselves in the juvenile justice system. 

What Does Cannabis Legalization Mean for Juveniles?



California Proposition 64 brought with it far more than just a license for adults to smoke “pot.” The bill provides an avenue for people to reduce penalties for most crimes involving the drug retroactively. Historically, having a criminal charge on your record for marijuana would make it far more difficult to land jobs or find housing; now, people can get their felonies reduced to misdemeanors or expunged completely, opening up doors in people’s lives that were once shut.

“A criminal conviction can be a barrier to employment, housing and other benefits,” San Francisco District Attorney, George Gasc√≥n, tells The O.C. Register

It is no secret that young people, including teenagers are apt to experiment with marijuana, which remains illegal under both state and Federal law. Proposition 64 did away with all cannabis-related criminal penalties for people under 18, The Orange County Register reports. Instead of jail and fines, minors are subject to community service and drug education courses for marijuana-related offenses. It should come as little surprise that California is the first state to write this kind of provision into their legalization measure; once again leading the charge.

Reducing sentences for adult marijuana offenses will have a lasting impact on countless Californians. Although, one could also argue that keeping young people out of the juvenile justice system will spare an even more significant number of people from paying an enormous cost for a wrong decision.

Juvenile Defense Attorney



At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we specialize in juvenile law. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges, Attorney Walsh can assist you and your family in a number of ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Longer Stays In Juvenile Detention

juvenile offenders
It is probably not hard for most people to understand why youth in juvenile detention facilities usually do better in the long run than young people serving time in prison. Once a person is caught up in the adult criminal justice system, the likelihood of recidivism is exceedingly high. With that in mind and citing research, California Governor Jerry Brown is asking for $3.8 million in his final budget proposal to fund allowing youth offenders longer stays in juvenile justice facilities, The Sacramento Bee reports. The plan underwent review by the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Corrections, Public Safety and the Judiciary during a hearing on March 22, 2018.

As it stands right now, juvenile offenders in California can remain in Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facilities until their 23rd birthday, according to the report. If a person’s sentence hasn’t come to an end by that time, the remainder is to be served in an adult correctional facility. Brown’s budget proposal, among other things, aims to lengthen stay caps in DJJ housing facilities. So, let’s take a look at what the proposal would mean for young people in the juvenile justice system if approved.


Rehabilitation, Not Recidivism


First, a California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) report shows that 74.2 percent of youth released from a DJJ facility in 2011-12 were re-arrested within three years; even still, DJJ inmates had lower recidivism rates than youth prison inmates. More funding would cover the cost of keep youth offenders in DDJ housing until 25, mitigating the risk of a young person being transferred to adult correctional facilities, the article reports. The money would allow for juveniles, convicted in adult court, to serve their time in DJJ facilities if they can complete their sentence by their 25th birthday.

Lastly, Brown’s budget proposal would cover the cost of creating a young adult offender pilot program. The CDCR would be able to place 76 less dangerous youth offenders in two unique juvenile housing centers, rather than prison. The Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) projects juvenile detention is far more costly than adult prison, $80,000 versus $30,000 each year. Two years from now, the 2020 budget proposal would require $9.2 million annually to cover the costs of extended stays in juvenile detention. It is worth noting that it may cost more to fund longer stays up front, but it will save money over time, according to the LAO.

Frankie Guzman, director of the National Center for Youth Law's California Youth Justice Initiative, supports Brown’s proposal; but, believes that community-based programs, instead of DDJ housing for less serious offenders, would be even more useful. Please take a moment to watch a short video on the subject:



If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Juvenile Offense Attorney


At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we specialize in juvenile law. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges, Attorney Walsh can assist you and your family in many ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Los Angeles County Teen Court

teen court
Young people are not the best at thinking things through thoroughly before they act, and as a result, they sometimes learn valuable lessons. Even when minors understand the difference between “right” and “wrong,” they can still make unfortunate errors in judgment that can cost them significantly. While some offenses committed by minors are severe and should carry a commensurate punishment, most infractions are benign. However, getting caught up in the juvenile justice system for a minor offense often does more harm than good.

More than a decade ago, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station started a diversion program, called “Teen Court.” Minors who commit minor offenses and meet specific criteria are eligible for Teen Court, excluding them from incarceration, formal probation, and a conviction on their record if they complete the requirements within a six-month period. The program can make all the difference for teenagers, potentially keeping them from becoming trapped in the criminal justice system.

L.A. County Teen Court


Teen Court is unique in several ways, notably in the fact that Juveniles who commit minor offenses plead guilty to a jury of their peers, meaning other teenagers in school. After which, teens in the diversion program must avoid getting into trouble during a six-month probationary period, according to KHTS. Juveniles taking part in the program have to do community service, write letters of apology and pay restitution to the victim or victims. Teen Court is only available to first-time offenders.

“We deal with juveniles that have committed misdemeanors and even felonies,” said Dan Finn, a detective with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. “The only limits are: we don’t take serious felony charges like gang-related crime, rape, murder (or) robbery.”

The goal of programs, like Teen Court, is to avoid recidivism. Data indicates that around half of teens who don’t take part in diversion programs end up going on to commit more crimes. Detective Finn points out that less than 15 percent of the juveniles who go through the Teen Court commit another offense. Owing to the success in Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County is following suit; a little over a year ago, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a plan that would make diversion the focus of the county’s juvenile justice system. The Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, reports that there are 38 Teen Courts in operation at high schools throughout Los Angeles County and over 70 judicial officers preside over the program.

“We catch these kids early, and it’s making a difference,” Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David S. Wesley, tells California Courts Newsroom. “We are incarcerating fewer kids, and saving millions of dollars keeping them out of the juvenile justice system.”

Juvenile Offense Attorney


At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we specialize in juvenile law. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges, Attorney Walsh can assist you and your family in a number of ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

SB 607: Suspending Students for Willful Defiance

SB 607
Adolescents are not the best at exercising sound judgment, and part of growing up is learning by your mistakes. Young people are instructed to always be on their best behavior, to act their age, so on and so forth. While most youths are pretty good at following the rules, especially in public settings like middle and high schools, there are some who like to push the envelope. Seeing just how much one can get away with is a fairly common trait among a number of students. However, choosing to not use one’s head before engaging in specific behaviors, i.e., disrupting class, getting into fights, and participating in illicit substance use, is often a slippery slope to detention, suspension, and even expulsion.

In many cases, teens who get into trouble with an authority figure in school are merely acting out. The reasons for doing things that will inevitably garner the ire of a teacher are usually rooted in some kind of issue a young person is having outside of school. Troubled teens, perhaps more times than not, are contending with problems at home. Such individuals could probably use guidance and support from the faculty members; instead, they get the opposite.

Punishing disruptive students may seem logical and making examples of students is likely to send a clear message to classmates about what kinds of behavior will not be tolerated. However, multiple day suspensions as a means of punishment might do more harm than good, serving only to cause teens to get behind in class which brings on more problems.


Senate Bill 607


Did you know that that there is a cut off age for when an adolescent can no longer get away with disrupting a classroom in California? It’s true, up until fourth grade, kids cannot face suspension for engaging in what is known as "willful defiance," that is disrupting class or defying teachers. What’s more, thanks to California Assembly Bill (AB) 420, expelling students for backtalk and not doing assignments is no longer permitted, CBS Sacramento reports. Citing concerns over the real impact of suspensions, some lawmakers would like to see AB 420-style protections for teenagers, as well.

“If you’re suspended out of school even once, that doubles the likelihood the student will drop out,” said Assemblyman Roger Dickinson in 2014.

California Senate Bill (SB) 607 would extend the protections of AB 420, protections which expire in July of this year. If passed, it would mean that schools couldn’t suspend students of any age for petty offenses. SB 607 provides “willful defiance” suspension protections to all students, Your Central Valley reports. The new legislation could significantly help minority and disabled students who are suspended at higher rates, according to ACLU data.

"When we look at the data, we see who it is used on," Senator Nancy Skinner said. "It's used on kids of color, it's used on LGBTQ kids, it's used on kids with disabilities."

It’s worth pointing out that SB 607 wouldn’t protect students who make threats, commit acts of violence, or steal. Strict penalties will still apply to such offenses; the new law is meant to keep kids in class even when they make poor decisions. There is opposition to the legislation, critics worry that it might scare teachers away in a state already dealing with shortages.

"If you're not going to allow us to have the right to take someone who is defiant to authority out of the situation, so they don't infect everyone else in class, nobody learns," said Former Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Larry Powell. "The teacher is disheartened and wants to get out of the profession." Please take a moment to watch a short video on the subject:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.


Juvenile Offense Attorney


At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we specialize in navigating the school disciplinary process and juvenile law. If your son or daughter is facing expulsion, Attorney Walsh can assist you and your family in many ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

California Supreme Court On Prop. 57

Proposition 57
In 2016, we covered the important topic of California Proposition 57 and its implications regarding juvenile law. Considering the fact that many young people do not fully understand the consequences of their actions, voters across the state approved the passing of Prop 57. The law takes the power of deciding which minors are tried in adult court out of the hands of prosecutors; instead, under the new legislation discretion is given to judges to determine in which court teenagers belong.

It was still unclear at the time of Proposition 57’s approval and signing into state law how it would affect minors who were already looking at standing trial in adult court. Would the new law be retroactive for the thousands of minors who were awaiting trial in adult court in November of 2016? A decision was reached regarding such individuals; on February 1, 2018, the California Supreme Court broadly expanded the scope of Prop. 57, according to U.S. News & World Report. The highest court in the state ruled that the law applies to pending cases at the time of the vote.


A Chance for Rehabilitation


The adult criminal justice system is a far cry from the juvenile court regarding punishment. Minors convicted of a crime in such cases can expect much stiffer sentences. The Supreme Court's decision brings with it new hope for young people across the state. Please keep in mind that the law isn’t any guarantee that a juvenile will escape adult court, just that they are entitled to a special hearing to decide if the higher adult court is warranted.

"While a person convicted of serious crimes in adult court can be punished by a long prison sentence, juveniles are generally treated quite differently, with rehabilitation as the goal," said Associate Justice Ming Chin, writing for the state Supreme Court. “The possibility of being treated as a juvenile in juvenile court — where rehabilitation is the goal — rather than being tried and sentenced as an adult can result in dramatically different and more lenient treatment.”

The Supreme Court also decided that Prop. 57 should even apply to youths appealing their convictions, according to the article. Beyond juvenile law, Proposition 57 allows adult felons the ability to try to obtain parole faster. California corrections officials have more discretion than before in regard to granting early release credits.


Juvenile Offense Attorney


At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we specialize in defending juvenile offenders in California. Please contact our office if your juvenile son or daughter is facing criminal charges. Having the right defense attorney in your corner can make a significant difference; we can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your child.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Marsy's Law Nationwide Meets Resistance

Marsy's Law
The rights of victims are of the utmost importance; a sentiment shared by billionaire Henry Nicholas. The co-founder of the tech company Broadcom was instrumental in the creation of Marsy’s Law, or California’s Proposition 9: The Victims Bill of Rights; Nicholas advocated for the bill after his sister Marsalee was murdered. Under the law, passed on November 4, 2008, the family members of victims can address the judge and request the judge to deny any further continuances from the defense in a given case. The idea is that drawing out the length of a case adds to the agony victim’s family members must endure.

The State of California Department of Justice points out that Marsy’s Law:
  • Protects and expands the legal rights of victims of crime in several areas.
  • Gives victims the right to legal standing, protection from the defendant, notification of all court proceedings, and restitution.
  • Requires parole boards to notify families of any changes to an offender's incarceration.
  • Grants parole boards more power to deny inmates parole.


Marsy’s Law Nationwide


A team of lobbyists, public relations firms, and high-powered political strategists are working to encourage more states to adopt a victims bill of rights, CBS SF Bay Area reports. Nicholas is using his fortune to make Marsy’s Law a reality, nationwide. While you might think that other states would be excited about protecting the rights of victims, that is not the case.

Some communities are concerned that adopting a victims bill of rights could lead to crippling costs and administrative burdens, the article reports. Opponents argue that victim-notification requirements are costly, and such mandates could be too much for small towns and counties with few resources. Montana passed legislation intended to protect the rights of victims in 2016.

“Our local government does not have enough money to operate and protect victims adequately already. Now we have these unfunded mandates that are coming through Marsy’s Law to local governments without the resources to pay for them,” said Leo Gallagher, county attorney in Lewis and Clark County, Montana. 

Montana’s Supreme Court recently struck the bill down in light of problems with the bill's writing. It’s fair to say that several other states are wrestling with the same issues Montana faced with Marsy’s Law.


Juvenile Offense Attorney


At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we specialize in defense of juvenile offenders in California. Additionally, as a victims rights attorney, Katie Walsh helps you pursue justice while acting as a compassionate advocate and trusted confidante. Please contact us today; we can help.