Katie's Blog

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.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Everychild Integrated Education & Legal Advocacy Project

The Center for Juvenile Law & Policy (CJLP) at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, will begin an ambitious new project that could lead to innovations and advancements in the field. Thanks to a $1 million competitive grant by the Everychild Foundation, law students will receive instruction in the best practices in advocating for foster youth, according to a press release. The primary goal of the Everychild Integrated Education & Legal Advocacy Project (EIELAP) is to stop the school-to-prison pipeline involving “crossover youth.” That is foster kids who have also had a run-in with authorities. 

Helping young people who’ve faced adversity become productive members of society is the program’s watchword. The EIELAP aims to help crossover children obtain high school diplomas, the belief being that education is the best means of preventing the transition from the juvenile justice system to the adult justice system.

“We are extremely proud to be associated with this project,” said Jacqueline Caster, Founder and President of the Everychild Foundation. “Crossover children require a strong advocate to assure them the services and opportunities to which they are entitled, but most often denied. Without this support, they are invariably pushed further along the proverbial ‘Pipeline to Adult Prison.’ However, with education proven to be the best vehicle to avoid this trajectory, the Loyola program has the ability to provide brighter futures for generations of children.”

CJLP’s Three Year Mission

The program will utilize a three-pronged approach involving education advocates, criminal-defense representatives, and social workers. Each crossover child will have a team advocating for them in each area mentioned above, the press release reports. All told, 300 Los Angeles youth will take part in the program, assisted by 36 law students. The program’s success could reshape the juvenile justice system and serve as a guide to similar programs throughout the country.

“Foster youth already have the deck stacked against them when it comes to the criminal justice system,” said Loyola Professor Sean Kennedy, Kaplan & Feldman Executive Director of the CJLP and former Federal Public Defender, Central District of California. “With the Everychild Foundation’s significant help, we have the power to fulfill a critical unmet need: the holistic representation of foster youth who have been charged with crimes. Together, we have the opportunity to secure justice for kids who have traditionally lacked the means to obtain it.”

Since the CJLP’s creation in 2004, its various programs have helped more than 500 kids in the L.A. area. Young attorneys have donated nearly 100,000 hours of their time working on more than a thousand delinquency cases.

Juvenile Defense Attorney

At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we specialize in California juvenile justice. Attorney Walsh obtained her law degree from Loyola Law School. We can assist your child in achieving a favorable outcome in their case. Please contact us today; we can help.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Youth Offender Parole and Miranda Rights

Miranda rights
It’s no secret that kids are susceptible to influence and pressure from their peers. When such pressure comes by way of adults, or police officers for that matter, it can lead young people to do or say things that are incriminating. Children have rights and it’s important that their rights are protected, and it is up to adults to ensure those rights. Governor Jerry Brown agrees with that sentiment, which is why he signed some crucial pieces of legislation into law last month aimed at protecting children.

On October 11, 2017, according to Human Rights Watch (HRH), Gov. Brown signed bills that will protect children in police custody, limit prison terms for youth and young adults, and offer young people a chance to rebuild their lives. The bills address Miranda rights for youth, assuring opportunity for parole for minors, and extending youth offender parole.

 “California is acting on research showing that our brains don’t mature until our mid-20s. These bills will ensure that the state’s youth are protected and given a second chance,” said Elizabeth Calvin, senior children’s rights advocate at Human Rights Watch. “California’s children and youth deserve the hope and real opportunities these new laws will give them.”

Opportunities for Youth Offenders

Senate Bill 395 (SB 395) prevents police officers from interrogating children 15 and under until after he or she has spoken with an attorney, HRH reports. Previously, children could waive their Miranda rights despite having little grasp on the implications of talking to police without parents or counsel present. 

“Everyone has heard TV cops rattle off Miranda warnings, but in real life, youth don’t understand what those warnings mean,” Calvin said. “They especially don’t understand what can happen to them once they give up those rights. This new law will make sure children aren’t alone when making a crucial, complex legal decision.” 

Senate Bill 394 (SB 394) gives opportunities for parole to young people who received life sentences for crimes they committed as minors. Such people will first be eligible for a parole hearing after completing 24 years of their sentence.

“No other country outside the US imposes life without parole sentences on children. By signing SB 394 into law, Governor Brown removes this shameful exception in California,” said Calvin. 

Assembly Bill 1308, extends the special parole process called “Youth Offender Parole,” through the age of 25, the article reports. The previous cut-off for youth offender parole was 22, but research shows that people released through the process have had a low recidivism rate. It makes sense to extend the age restriction, giving more young people an opportunity to turn their life around.

Juvenile Offense Attorney

At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we specialize in defense of juvenile offenders in California. We can assist your child in obtaining a favorable outcome in their case. Please contact us today; we can help.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Jordan's Law Addresses Cyberbullying

We can all agree that teenagers, for a host of reasons not always their fault, are not the nicest of people. Especially when it comes to their fellow classmates. Each of us has our own experience with high school. Some of us were popular, some sports driven. Others dove headfirst into their studies. But for most people in high school, there was a need to ever remind one’s self: ‘this will all be over soon.’ Regardless of one's standing in the teenage social hierarchy.

It’s an unfortunate reality that in every high school there will always be some kids who catch the ire of other students. Classmates who, for whatever reason, feel the need to belittle students who are not at the top of the teenage pyramid of popularity. Constantly terrorizing certain students, for some, could be chalked up to as an extracurricular activity. And sadly, it’s a behavior that can leave lasting scars whether the assaults be verbal or physical.

Some of you reading this may have been bullied, or were bullies yourself. You may try to downplay what you did or what happened to you as just being a part of growing up. After all, this is high school we are talking about. But, if you follow the news you know that in some cases bullying goes far beyond anyone’s imagination of just how bad it can be for some students. What’s more, such abuses can be exponentially worsened by technology. Taking what would historically be harms that only the oppressor and oppressed would be witness to, are amplified by the use of social media for all to see. It’s worth pointing out that scars of oppression may dull with time, but the Internet never forgets. Allowing shame and humiliation to take an intemporal form.

“Jordan’s Law”

Last year, a Southern Californian teenager named Jordan, had his life changed (maybe forever) by the acts of two peers. Jordan was “suckered punched” by one of the boys, while the other filmed it, ABC 10 reports. The boy who filmed the incident blasted the video to the internet for everyone to see. What was a spot of fun for two bullies resulted in a ruptured ear drum, fractured skull, and a blood clot for then fourteen-year-old Jordan. The assault required hospitalization lasting nearly a week. 

Here is where the case gets tricky, the boy who punched Jordan faced charges, the girl recording the incident and posted it to Snapchat didn’t, according to the article. This led Jordan’s father, Ed Peisner, to work with Assembly Member Matt Dababneh to change the laws around posting to social media. Assembly Bill 1542 (Jordan’s Law) would make filming a violent attack with the purpose disseminating it on the Internet against the law. People who do so, could be held criminally responsible if AB 1542 is passed.

“Everybody’s posting… it’s out of control,” Peisner said. “[Jordan’s] emotional scars, they will last a lifetime.” 

One analogy works fairly well: You didn’t rob the bank, but you drove the getaway car. The driver is culpable, too. Jordan’s Law would not apply to innocent bystanders who just happen to catch such events on a smartphone, but to people who conspire to record a crime. Ed Peisner started The Jordanstrong Foundation, with the hope making people think twice about cyberbullying.

“That’s my hope… before they do something, they’ll pause for a second,” Patrick said.

Victims' Rights

If you have a son or daughter who has been assaulted by another teen, please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh. Crime victims have rights, but they often get lost in the criminal justice system. We can help.