Katie's Blog

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Jordan's Law Addresses Cyberbullying

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.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Protecting Domestic Violence Victims In California

domestic violence
Almost a year ago California businesses that employ 25 or more people were informed that they are required to provide written notice to new employees of his or her rights to take time off for the following reasons:
  1. “To seek medical attention for injuries caused by domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
  2. To obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, program, or rape crisis center as a result of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
  3. To obtain psychological counseling related to an experience of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
  4. To participate in safety planning and take other actions to increase safety from future domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, including temporary or permanent relocation.”
The requirement falls under amending Section 230.1, Assembly Bill (AB) 2337, authored by Assemblywoman Autumn R. Burke in 2016. Subsequently, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2337 into law. A sign that California is committed to protecting the rights of the countless victims of domestic assault.

This past August, Assemblywoman Burke was appointed to serve as a member of the California Domestic Violence Advisory Council (DVAC) by the California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, the Los Angeles Sentinel reports. The DVAC works together with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) to “ensure the safety and security of all domestic violence victim.”


AB 2337 and Troubling Statistics On Domestic Violence


In addition to informing new employees of their rights, employers must provide the information listed above to any current employee who asks. The aforementioned legislation also protects victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking from being terminated due to work absences.

Unless you have or know someone who has been directly affected by domestic violence, you may not give the subject much thought. One’s life moves forward, despite what is happening in the shadows around you. You are probably unaware of just how prevalent domestic violence is, nor would you be aware the true impact it has on society. Upon accepting the new appointment which she expressed gratitude for, Burke said:
“The grim statistics are shocking – a study by the Center for Disease Control found that women lose nearly eight million days of paid work because of violence inflicted by their intimate partners which is equivalent of 32,114 full-time jobs each year. Additionally, intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime, one-out-of-seven women have been stalked by an intimate partner in their lifetime, younger women ages 18-24 are commonly abused by an intimate partner, and women are six times more likely to be killed when there is a gun in the house. That is why I look forward to serving on the DVAC and continuing to promote state policies and support programs that seek to end acts of violence between spouses and domestic partners.”
As an aside: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Which, California has officially observed since 1987, according to the article. “Love Shouldn’t Hurt” is a public awareness campaign sponsored by the DVAC.


Orange County Domestic Violence Attorney


Are you a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking? Or, do you know someone who has be affected by such troubling crimes? If so, Attorney Katie Walsh can advocate for you or a loved one regarding such matters. At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we can help both inside the courtroom and out, navigating the both the court process and in finding appropriate counseling services. We work closely with a number of experienced counselors, social workers and therapists. Please contact us today, we can help.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Juvenile Justice Changes In California

Juvenile-Justice
In June, we wrote about California Senate Bill 190 which was written to help the families of minors charged with crimes. The costs to families associated with juvenile offenses can be immense and mind boggling, as we mentioned before. SB 190 was crafted to ease some of the burden, banning the collection of fees in the juvenile-justice system across the state.

SB 190 is not the only piece of legislation in the works with the aim of assisting both juveniles and their families. These are bills, whose authors are hopeful will lead to changes in other states, placing greater focus on prevention and rehabilitation, rather than punishment. Together, California State Sens. Holly Mitchell and Ricardo Lara introduced four bills that could greatly help thousands of families across the state, Youth Today reports. The director of the National Center for Juvenile Justice, Melissa Sickmund, says:
“Some states may look at California and say if California can do it with all those kids, wow, then maybe we can do it, too.”

Juvenile Justice Changes


Aside from SB 190, there are three other important pieces of legislation that have been introduced. You can read a brief description of them below, for more information you can click the associated links. If approved:
  • SB 394: writes into state law a U.S. Supreme Court decision whereby minors can’t be sentenced to life without parole.
  • SB 395: requires minors speak with an attorney before waiving any legal rights.
  • SB 439: keeps children 11 and under out of the juvenile justice system.
Thus far, only SB 439 has made its way through the California Senate, according to the article. The others are still awaiting a green light from the legislative body, after which the State Assembly must approve similar bills. The last step is Governor Jerry Brown signing the bills into law, probably sometime this fall.

“I feel optimistic that our entire juvenile justice and equity package will be signed into law," said Sen. Mitchell. "My colleagues in the Legislature and the governor’s office have heard the general public loud and clear in their approval of Proposition 47. The people have demonstrated their desire for a shift away from a punitive orientation system, to a new approach that focuses on prevention, and rehabilitation."

Juvenile Justice Help


The four bills in question can make huge difference, across the state. If you have a son or daughter who has been charged with a crime, please reach out to us for help. Attorney Katie Walsh and her team can answer your questions, and help your child achieve the best possible outcome.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rape Kits Go Untested In California

rape kit
For a moment, we would like you to imagine a teenage girl who experienced a traumatic event. Rape. Imagine now that it was someone you knew or was close to you. What might you expect to be done about it? If you are in any way familiar with the criminal justice system, or have a penchant for TV crime dramas, some things probably come to mind. First move, alert the authorities.

After which, the victim must undergo the arduous task of reliving the event when giving a statement. Describing the offender (if they are unknown to the victim), in an effort to give authorities a chance of arresting the sex offender. You are also probably aware of the term “rape kit.” A victim is swabbed for the offenders bodily fluids in an attempt to gather DNA evidence. But, what then?

You might think that the rape kit would be tested and the reading then submitted to a database. Makes sense, right? Sex offenders often strike more than once and often times leave behind trace evidence. It may come as shock to learn that not all rape kits are tested. Even more shocking are the reasons why.


Testing Rape Kits


Every day in the United States, young men and women are sexually assaulted. Many of whom are still teenagers. There are procedures in place to help victims receive some justice. But, more times than not, offenders seemingly get away with their crimes. And in many cases, such offenders could have been stopped before they rape again. The reason why some offenders are able to rape, and then rape again is due to various law enforcement agencies failing to test rape kits, Los Angeles Daily News reports. The reasons why rape kits go untested could be due to:
  • The case is solved or cleared.
  • Officers may regard it as a low priority.
  • The financial costs of testing can be upwards of $1500.
It is likely that the latter two reasons turned your stomach, more than a bit. To think that an alleged rape would be a low priority, or too costly to be tested. But, that seems to be the case. In fact there is evidence of at least 9,000 untested kits in California, according to the End the Backlog Initiative. A number that is sure to be much higher. Not testing rape kits can have unintended consequences years later.

One such case, involving Helena Lazaro, who was repeatedly raped at the age of 17, saw what happens first hand. At the time of the incident, she had a rape kit performed that she assumed would have been tested and logged. Years later when she identified her attacker, not only was the statute of limitation expired, it was revealed that her rape kit had never been tested by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Lazaro’s story is not an isolated occurrence; there is evidence of this kind of thing happening across the country.

“I think about that 17-year-old girl, the 25-year-old girl, the 30-year-old woman – all the versions of myself who have suffered,” Lazaro says. “That suffering could have ended much sooner.


Rape Kit Backlog Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund


In an attempt to direct financial resources to police and Sheriff’s Departments for rape kit testing, a bill was introduced that would allow an individual to designate on his or her tax return that a specified amount in excess of his or her tax liability be transferred to the Rape Kit Backlog Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund (AB-280). While the bill’s author, Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low, says this is “not the ideal nor perfect solution.” Adding:

“I am in agreement that we as a state and public jurisdictions should adequately fund this for justice to be obtained. But, that’s not the reality.”


Serving the Victim, Representing the Victim


Crime victims have many rights that they may not be aware of. Don't get lost in the justice system. Attorney Katie Walsh is a victim's rights attorney. If you have questions regarding your own case or that of one of your loved one's, then contact Attorney Walsh

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Bankrupt On Juvenile Justice

juvenile justice
Kids who get in trouble with the law, more times than not, lack parental supervision. Without direction, adolescents often fall in with the wrong crowd. From there, anything is possible, from drug use to committing petty crimes. Such teenagers, at one point or another, get arrested by local authorities, and may have to serve time, receive probation and/or pay fines. As you can probably imagine, the process is both slow and costly. So, who is going to pay for it all? One’s family?

Well, yes, a teenager's family is usually stuck having to foot the bill for the infractions. But, if we already know that many of the kids caught up in the system come from broken or dysfunctional homes—there is a good chance that such families are not at the upper end of the socioeconomic spectrum. Even a middle-class family may be severely strained by court fees associated with the son or daughter's indiscretion.

Any adult who has had a run-in with the law will tell you, “it isn’t cheap!” Hiring an attorney (even public defenders carry some cost), paying fines and restitution can all add up. Even if one is sentenced to probation, there are monthly supervision and drug screening fees to be budgeted. The same is the case for juveniles. The difference is that minors have few financial resources at their young age. Which means that mom and dad need to step in to cover the costs, failing to pay such costs could harm their child.

Bankrupt On Juvenile Justice


A new report conducted by researchers from the UC Berkeley School of Law indicates that some families in counties across the state are losing their homes and having to file bankruptcy, because of fees associated with their child’s arrest, Public News Service reports. Juveniles living in San Diego, Orange, Kern and Ventura counties are subject to the highest fees. Covering the costs of:
  • Public Representation
  • Detention
  • Probation
  • Electronic Monitoring
  • Drug Testing
"Many families can't afford to pay even $50 a month, let alone $500 a month," said study co-author Stephanie Campos-Bui, a clinical supervising attorney with the Policy Advocacy Clinic at the UC Berkeley School of Law. "When these fees are assessed, they become a civil judgment against a family that is enforceable through wage garnishment and tax-rebate intercepts."

Senate Bill 190, currently before the California state Legislature, would ban the collection of fees in the juvenile-justice system across the state.

Juvenile Justice Help


A good defense could result in lower costs in the long run, please contact Katie Walsh to discuss your options. Attorney Walsh, a former prosecutor familiar with the OC adult and juvenile justice systems, can provide your son or daughter a solid defense. Please reach out for a free consultation today.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

SB 421: Sex Offender Tier System

sex offenders
No matter which state you live in, most people would probably agree that sex crimes are some of the most heinous. Some may even argue that the damage caused by sexual assault, molestation and rape have lasting effects on victims that could be considered worse in many ways than that of murder. Everyone has different opinions, to be sure, yet it is hard to not see the value in keeping track of people who may be apt to commit sex offenses again.

In the United States, every state has some form of registry that convicted sex offenders are required by law to submit information about where they are residing. The public can access the registry to determine if there is anyone in their neighborhood that may be cause for concern. In California, there is a law in place enacted in 1996 that mandates the California Department of Justice (CA DOJ) to inform the public about specified registered sex offenders and about those individuals posing a risk to public safety.

California's Megan's Law came about in the wake of the rape and murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka. The perpetrator was a known offender who moved across the street from Kanka’s family. Sex offender legislation, like the registry requirement and Megan’s Law, arguably have protected countless families from tragedy. However, there have been some concerns of late that some sex crimes are more severe than others, and that the lifelong registry requirement may be extreme in some cases.

A new bill has been introduced in California that would bring about a sex offender tier system, CBS 2 reports. Those below would potentially be able to be removed from the database. A spectrum with 1 being the least severe and 3 being the worst. If passed, offenders who fall into tier three would be in the registry for life, whereas people in tier 1 would be on the list for 10 years and tier 2 for twenty years. While the law seems pretty simple, if passed it would mean that the State would have to go back and review each offender's case to determine which tier they should be on. As you can probably imagine there are a number of Californian’s who are not fans of SB 421.

"So if they're on there for 10 years, after the first year of being on there they can petition to be taken off. They would go to the law enforcement and then they forward it to the district attorney's office who writes it to be taken off. So someone who is a tier 1, which means possession of child porn or lewd acts with a child under the age of 14 or selling a minor for illegal acts, those are tier 1 offenses. That's ridiculous," said Mika Moulton, who is with the organization Christopher’s Clubhouse. SB 421 is still in the preliminary stages. 

If you or loved one needs an attorney to understand the current laws and the proposed legislation and how it may impact you or a family member, remember to contact Attorney Katie Walsh. Ms. Walsh and her team will communicate with you and answer all your questions.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights

sexual assault
Last week was National Crime Victims' Rights Week (NCVRW), April 2 through the 8th, with the theme of—Strength. Resilience. Justice. The goal is to inspire communities to raise awareness about victims’ rights and address the unmet needs of such victims.

With that in mind, it is timely given that the California Assembly Public Safety Committee unanimously passed The Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights (Assembly Bill 1312), East County Magazine reports. The legislation, authored and introduced by San Diego Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, would require hospital and law enforcement to inform sexual assault victims about their rights before undergoing medical examination and/or interviews. 

Millions of Californians have been sexually assaulted and/or raped, both adults and minors alike. It takes extreme courage to come forward and report such malicious acts. Such people need not only the support of the community, but also that of lawmakers, law enforcement and medical professionals.

“California needs to do a better job of helping sexual assault victims navigate all of the legal, medical and personal issues that survivors have to deal with, and it starts with a Sexual Assault Victims bill of rights that ensures each survivor is informed about their rights and the resources that are available to them before they are examined,” said Assemblywoman Gonzalez-Fletcher. “Victims have rights, and this new law will strengthen those rights to include emergency contraception for women and a ban on police departments prematurely destroying rape test kits.” 

On top of being given an outline detailing a victim's rights, Assembly Bill 1312 would grant survivors:
  • The right to request a person of a certain gender be present during interviews.
  • The right for a copy (gratis) of law enforcement reports on the case.
  • The right to free contraception and a shower (when available) after the medical exam.
  • The right to a separate waiting room from the defendant during criminal proceedings and at the district attorney’s office.
“For rape survivors like myself, these civil rights in California mean the difference between justice or lost justice,” stated Amanda Nguyen, California native, founder and president of Rise, a national civil rights nonprofit. “California survivors must have equal rights under the law. With the support from state legislators, we can help pass new laws that will end these injustices and protect the 2 million rape survivors in California.”

The legislation would require law enforcement to keep rape test kits for 20 years.

If you are the victim of any form of sexual assault or rape, please contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh. We understand how difficult this process can be and we are here for you.