Katie's Blog

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Juvenile Crime Statistics

Young people who commit illegal offenses before reaching legal adulthood are at risk of entering the world’s largest prison system, losing their freedom and ending up burdened with a criminal record that can threaten their educational and employment opportunities. In the U.S., thousands of people under the age of 18 get arrested in an average year.

A juvenile court may order a minor convicted of committing an underage offense to perform community service, pay a fine, remain in home confinement or even incarcerate them in a juvenile correction facility. In extreme circumstances like murder or rape, a judge may decide to transfer the case outside the juvenile justice system and treat the child as an adult. Juvenile court cases can be tricky to navigate, which is why you need the knowledge and guidance an experienced attorney can provide.

Has Juvenile Crime Increased or Decreased?

According to a report published by the National Center for Juvenile Justice, courts with juvenile jurisdiction handled an estimated 722,600 cases in 2019. The makeup of these was as follows.
  • Person offenses, such as assault: 33%
  • Property offenses, such as burglary and vandalism: 30%
  • Public order offenses, such as disorderly conduct: 24%
  • Drug offenses, such as buying or selling illegal substances: 13%
While the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice notes that juvenile arrests in California have been on the decline, those who get arrested are facing harsher punishment. Their research points to a need to investigate and reform the systemic factors leading to an increase in arrests resulting in referral, disposition and detention.

Juvenile Crime Risk Factors

Some juvenile crimes, like truancy or underage drinking, often stem from impulsive decision-making. Research has shown that the rational part of the human brain is not fully developed until about age 25, which is why adolescents might act without thinking through the long-term consequences of their decisions.

If your child has friends who engage in delinquent or illegal behavior, they may feel pressured to fit in by going along with the crowd. Or, they may act out in response to bullying and rejection because they have had fewer opportunities to participate in healthy, beneficial social interactions.

Other factors that may put a young person at higher risk of committing a juvenile crime include:
  • School suspensions and expulsions
  • Academic challenges, including below-average achievement
  • A history of emotional and behavioral issues
  • Mental health disorders, including trauma and depression
  • Substance abuse

Providing Peace of Mind for You and Your Loved Ones

Regardless of the circumstances, your family does not deserve to face the long-lasting ramifications that can accompany juvenile crime in California. If your child is in legal trouble, an experienced Orange County juvenile defense attorney can take the case and help ensure their future stays promising.

As a district attorney and juvenile defense specialist, Katie Walsh has successfully represented some of the most challenging cases. Today, she uses her expertise on the ins and outs of the juvenile court system to tailor legal strategies for her clients’ best interest. You do not have to face the challenges associated with juvenile crime alone. Contact our office today to schedule your complimentary consultation.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Are Juvenile Records Sealed When You Turn 18?

If you have a juvenile record in California, you should know that it is open to the public. This documentation includes all the information about criminal activity you were allegedly involved with before you turned 18, including arrest and probation reports and court findings and rulings.

Having a juvenile record can make it exponentially more challenging for young adults to successfully find meaningful employment, apply for a bank loan, get a driver’s license, rent an apartment or get accepted into school. Fortunately, having a case sealed makes it as if it never happened. Here’s what you need to know about the process of sealing juvenile records in California.

What Happens to Your Record Once You Turn 18?

Many people assume that a juvenile record immediately turns into a non-issue once they become legal adults. However, that’s not the case in California, where the court does not automatically seal juvenile records. That means your record will remain available for anyone to access unless you proactively seek out a judicial order to have it sealed.

There are multiple advantages to sealing your juvenile record, most notably that doing so will give you a fresh start – from that point on, no one will know about it. If anyone asks you if you’ve been arrested or if you have a criminal record, you can truthfully and confidently answer “no.”

Eligibility Requirements

Not everyone is eligible to petition to have their juvenile records sealed – there are some notable exceptions. For instance, some violent crimes such as murder, assault, robbery and carjacking are typically unsealable, depending on your age at the time of the offense.

If you apply for a job with a law enforcement agency, your record might be also visible to them when they run a background check on you.

You are eligible to have your juvenile records sealed if you are older than 18, or if at least five years have passed since your most recent arrest or discharge from probation. You must also be able to prove to the court that you have been rehabilitated, and there must not be any pending litigation resulting from any of the crimes on your juvenile record. Additionally, you can’t have been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony for crimes involving “moral turpitude,” such as voluntary manslaughter or rape.

Protect Your Future

While the process of applying to have a juvenile record sealed can help empower young adults by giving them new insights into the justice system, it’s best to have reliable legal representation to ensure a former juvenile offender can enter adulthood with a clean slate. As a former prosecutor, Katie Walsh has handled thousands of juvenile cases, making her one of the most experienced attorneys in these matters.

When the Law Offices of Katie Walsh represents your legal defense, we will help you file a record-sealing petition. Together, you and your attorney will attend the court hearing that determines the petition outcome. Once a judge decides to seal a juvenile record, all related information will get destroyed after five years, allowing you to make a fresh start with your adult life. Contact us today for your free consultation.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Suspension and Expulsion During COVID-19

The emergence and rapid spread of COVID-19 brought seismic changes that closed businesses and schools across the country. Without the ability to teach in person, educators scrambled to find creative ways to conduct classes online. The switch to online learning caused unique stresses among teachers, students and families.

Educators and policymakers have predominantly focused their efforts on finding solutions for providing remote instruction, helping students who lack access to the technology necessary to learn online, and all the other essential community services schools typically provide. Unfortunately, any meaningful discussion about COVID-19’s effects on school discipline has largely fallen by the wayside.

School Discipline in the COVID-19 Era

Under typical circumstances, most infractions that constitute grounds for expulsion involve behavior that takes place on school property – such as using tobacco products on campus or bringing a weapon to class. However, despite the switch to a virtual environment, where on-campus rule violations are impossible, some schools and school districts still require students to serve suspensions and expulsions.

For example, one fourth-grader in Louisiana faced expulsion after his teacher noticed a BB gun in his room during online class. The school later amended the expulsion to a six-day suspension after the family’s attorney successfully argued that events taking place in a private home are different from those that happen on campus, and that school policies needed an update to reflect that.

Are We Overdue to Reform School Disciplinary Measures?

Controversy about school discipline was prevalent even before the pandemic forced students, teachers and parents to adapt to distance learning. For example, a 2020 report from the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the UCLA Civil Rights Project and the Learning Policy Institute found that K-12 students from coast to coast missed out on a total of 11 million instructional days in a single academic year due to out-of-school suspension.

The same report highlighted alarming racial disparities in school suspension data, pointing to the fact that students of color miss significantly more instructional days due to suspensions than their white classmates. This phenomenon occurs nationwide, suggesting the need for reform. Citing the adverse effects of school push-outs on students, a coalition of organizations wrote a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom in April 2020 to request that he issue a moratorium on school expulsions during the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the need to reevaluate a host of societal issues, from our health care system to our work/life balance. Perhaps the additional attention paid to school discipline during virtual learning will lead officials to rethink their outdated suspension and expulsion policies, with a specific focus on how these disciplinary methods impact some of the most vulnerable students.

What to Do If Your Student Faces Expulsion

In California, your student may be subject to expulsion for making an impulsive adolescent decision. At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we help families avoid disciplinary actions that could have far-reaching repercussions on their child’s future. As a former prosecutor, Katie Walsh has handled thousands of juvenile cases. If you need the expertise of a knowledgeable Southern California school expulsion attorney, contact us today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Juvenile Detention Center | What Is It Like in California?

Juvenile hall is a form of short-term detention for young people who have been arrested for various delinquent acts. These secure facilities house underage offenders while they await legal action on their case or placement in a long-term counseling or rehabilitation program. If your child has allegedly broken the law and is facing the consequences, navigating the fast-moving court process can be stressful. Here’s what you need to know about juvenile hall in Orange County.

What Is a Juvenile Detention Center?

While you may hear the phrases “juvenile hall” and “juvenile detention” used interchangeably, there’s a subtle difference between the two. Juvenile hall is a more temporary custody for a young person waiting for a court to handle their case. In contrast, a juvenile detention center is a longer-term placement for young people whose alleged offenses are more significant, leading a judge to order confinement.

Youth in juvenile detention have the constitutional right to:
  • Due process
  • Be free from cruel and unusual punishment
  • Equal protection
  • Free speech
  • Free exercise of religion
  • Counsel

What Happens in Juvenile Detention?

In general, most juvenile detention centers offer various programs and evidence-based services to support residents’ physical, emotional and social development. They have dormitories where the residents sleep, along with dining and recreational areas. Detained youth have opportunities to go outdoors, engage in physical exercise, participate in a range of recreational activities and practice their religion.

Facilities also have on-site medical and mental health facilities and classrooms where school-aged youth can continue to receive an education. Juvenile detention center staff are responsible for ensuring juveniles adhere to consistent daily routines and attend counseling as necessary to help with issues such as drug use or anger management.

Understanding California’s Juvenile Court System

In general, the law treats underage offenders differently from adults. For example, “status offenses” like truancy and curfew violations only constitute criminal acts when committed by minors aged 12 to 18. Juvenile court is where all cases of felonies, misdemeanors and status offenses allegedly committed by minors get heard. Crucially, most California prosecutors try to avoid pressing criminal charges, and instead try to direct young offenders to beneficial community programming.

In the California juvenile court system, the judge does not rule a minor guilty or innocent. Instead, if a judge finds the minor committed the alleged crime beyond a reasonable doubt, they will sustain the petition filed by the district attorney.

There are several different dispositions, or sentences, available in juvenile court. Informal probation is the mildest of these. The minor does not need to admit any allegations of wrongdoing, and their charges get dismissed when they successfully complete their program. At the other end of the spectrum is commitment to California’s Division of Juvenile Justice, which provides treatment and services to youthful offenders up to the age of 25 with more extensive criminal backgrounds.

Your Experienced Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney

As a former district attorney, Katie Walsh now uses her extensive legal expertise to provide families with the best possible results in every case. If your child is facing charges, you should have a knowledgeable attorney by your side to defend their case and walk you through the ins and outs of every stage of the process. Don’t entrust your family’s future to an attorney who lacks juvenile court experience. For your complimentary consultation, contact us today.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

California Juvenile Felony Sentencing

California juvenile felonies

Concerned that the minds of young people are not yet fully developed, many in the juvenile justice system are advocating for laws that would emphasize reform rather than punishment. California juvenile felony sentencing is one of the areas that youth advocates are focusing on, particularly in terms of the potential for developing career criminals.

Three Strikes

In April 2021, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón announced that he was backing pending legislation that would prevent “strikes” from counting toward sentencing enhancement for juveniles. California’s “three strikes” law is currently designed such that it can lead to prison sentences of life for repeat serious offenders, including youthful offenders.

State law treats these “strikes” for juveniles aged 16 and over the same as for adults. In such cases, a second strike would double the underlying sentence and a third felony can result in a life sentence for a youth. Gascón emphasized that ““The juvenile system is based on rehabilitation, not on punishment.” He also pointed out that juvenile offenders do not have the same constitutional protection as adults, including the right to a jury trial.

Still Need Guidance

In supporting the legislation, clinical psychologist Rahn Minagawa stated that young people, particularly those age 16 and 17, “are not fully developed adults.” They are much more likely to be driven by impulse or by peers in their behavior. To toughen their punishment for things they did as a juvenile is “just inherently unfair,” he notes.

State Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) also pointed out that “treating 18- and 19-year-olds as adults makes no … sense in the criminal context.” Skinner introduced Senate Bill 889 in 2020, proposing that the reach of the state’s juvenile justice system be expanded to treat individuals under the age of 21 as minors. Skinner stated that the bill was proposed in “recognition that people under 21 still need guidance.” She pointed out that other laws, including restrictions on purchasing alcohol and tobacco, require an individual to be 21 at the “adult or responsible age.”

Brian Richart, president of the Chief Probation Officers of California, said that “the science says (those) between 18 and 24 have less than fully developed prefrontal cortexes. Their decision making is inhibited. They act impulsively and we know this, yet we treat them as if they are fully developed.”

California Juvenile Felonies

In 2018, 17,200 minors under the age of 17 were arrested for felonies in California. More than half of those were Black and 36% were Latino. In addition, approximately 14,400 individuals aged 18 and 19 were arrested on felony charges. Although raising the age of those tried in juvenile courts could potentially send thousands of new inmates to fill juvenile facilities, these young people would probably be held much longer if sent to adult facilities.

Senate Bill 823

Under Senate Bill 823, the state legislature closed the Division of Juvenile Justice within the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, effective July 1, 2021, and transferred the responsibility for youth who were wards of the court to county governments. The bill offers the opportunity for local probation departments to create a rehabilitation program, along with other interventions, that meets the needs of youth and young adults who would have been housed at regional centers operated by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Youth will remain closer to their families and communities while participating in a secure rehabilitation program.

The bill also extends the age of local juvenile court jurisdiction to 23 or 25 and repealed provisions that allowed juveniles to be detained in adult facilities. A new statewide oversight body has also been created, the Office of Youth and Community Restoration within the California Health and Human Services Agency. The mission of this oversight body is to “promote trauma responsive, culturally informed services for youth involved in the juvenile justice system.”

The Juvenile Assessment and Intervention System (JAIS) has determined the needs of the youth committed to the Division of Juvenile Justice between 2015 and 2019, including the facts that:

  • 86% had behavioral health needs including, depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, and impulse control.
  • 63% had needs related to building and maintaining pro-social relationships, meaning that their peer group was negative, delinquent, and/or abusive.
  • 59% had chronic parental or family problems.
  • 48% had substance use issues that contributed to the youth’s legal difficulties.
  • Only 17% of youth at DJJ had significant criminal orientation, described as criminal behavior being an acceptable and a common part of the youth’s life.

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney

Please contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh if your son or daughter is in legal trouble or faces school expulsion. Attorney Walsh has the expertise to advocate for your loved one's well-being successfully. For a free consultation, call Katie Walsh at (714) 351-0178.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Senate Bill 81: California Sentencing Enhancements

sentencing enhancements

When a juvenile is convicted of a crime in California, even minimum sentences can often be increased by sentencing enhancements. A recent bill introduced by a state senator would change that to some degree. Senate Bill 81 will affect California sentencing enhancements for juveniles and adults alike.

Tough on Crime Era

Many of the sentencing enhancements that have the potential to double an individual’s sentence came out of the “tough on crime” era of the 80s and 90s. Statutes such as the three strike law were enacted that could pose severe penalties on anyone who committed even a relatively minor crime. These enhancements have increasingly come under scrutiny as the costs of mass incarceration, both social and financial, are being more closely examined.

A study of these enhancements that were imposed from 2005 to 2017 found that they accounted for about one of every four years that were served in a jail or prison. The enhancements more than doubled the base term in many cases. About half were triggered by prior convictions. The other half was due to an individual’s conduct during the offense.

150 Separate Sentence Enhancements

In 2021, 40 years after the beginning of the tough on crime era, California’s penal code now has more than 150 separate sentence enhancements. These range from add-ons for possible gang association, which can affect many juveniles, to having a prior conviction or being on probation.

These added terms are routinely applied in almost every criminal case. Of those in state prison now, 80% are serving a longer sentence because of one or more of these enhancements. Over a fourth are serving sentences with at least three enhancements.

Committee on Revision of the Penal Code

Several key people testified to California’s Committee on Revision of the Penal Code that these added sentences need to be reduced or eliminated. In September 2020, former Governor Jerry Brown argued that it was time for California to get rid of all of them. Alternatively, he stated, state law should be reformed to give judges stronger guidance on when and how to apply them appropriately.

Prosecutors, including Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, testified as well. They stated that the use of sentence enhancements is out of control in the state. They added that, in many trials, the application of these extended prison terms gets more attention, by the defense and the prosecution, than the crime itself. During the committee meetings, the members heard additional testimony and studied research that showed that extended prison sentences do not improve public safety.

Senate Bill 81

Senator Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley is a member of the California Committee on the Revision of the Penal Code, which was established by Governor Gavin Newsom and the state legislature. Senate Bill 81, introduced by Senator Skinner, reflects one of the 10 recommendations made by the committee, establishing judicial guidance on the use of sentencing. In May 2021, the bill was approved by the California Senate.

The bill will provide clarity on California sentencing enhancements by giving guidance to judges on how to apply the enhancements in the cases where there is clear and convincing evidence that, should they not impose the additional sentence, that it would endanger the public. SB 81 will guide judges in factoring in the following circumstances under which an enhancement should not be applied:

  • Application of the enhancement would result in a disparate racial impact.
  • Multiple enhancements are alleged in a single case. In this instance, all enhancements beyond a single enhancement shall be dismissed.
  • The application of an enhancement could result in a sentence of over 20 years. In this instance, the enhancement shall be dismissed.
  • The current offense is connected to mental illness.
  • The current offense is connected to prior victimization or childhood trauma.
  • The current offense is not a violent felony as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5.
  • The enhancement is based on a prior conviction that is over five years old.
  • Though a firearm was used in the current offense, it was inoperable or unloaded.
  • The defendant was a juvenile when they committed the current offense or prior offenses.

Now that it has passed the Senate, Senate Bill 81 will go to the state Assembly.

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney

Please contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh if your son or daughter is in legal trouble or faces school expulsion. Attorney Walsh has the expertise to advocate for your loved one's well-being successfully. For a free consultation, call Katie Walsh at (714) 351-0178.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

California PROMYSE Act Passes Senate Public Safety Committee | SB 493

PROMYSE Act - SB 493

A critical piece of legislation that should drastically improve accountability of a state grant targeted toward juvenile justice crime prevention has won broad support in its first legislative committee. Senate Bill 493, the PROMYSE Act, has passed the Senate Public Safety Committee and now moves on to the Senate Appropriations Committee for review and approval. 


PROMYSE is the Promoting Youth Success and Empowerment Act. The bill was authored by Senator Steven Bradford and supported by Senators Nancy Skinner, Scott Wiener, and Sydney Kamlager as well as a Co-Sponsor Coalition made up of advocates, service providers, and youth justice experts. 

One main goal of the PROMYSE Act is to dramatically improve spending and accountability of an annual grant for the state of California called the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA). The bill will also reinvest $100M+ in youth services in the state that are provided by schools, community-based organizations, and public health agencies.

Co-Sponsor Coalition

A group of youth advocates, justice experts, and service providers have co-sponsored SB 493, supporting Senator’s Bradford’s efforts. Among them is the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ). There have also been a number of individuals supporting the bill, especially those who have been directly impacted by the juvenile justice system in the state of California. Together they represent a network of constituents promoting the safety and wellness of diverse communities across the state.

The expertise of the coalition has been informed by direct experience with JJCPA decision-making as well as participation in programs funded by JJCPA. In addition, the group has conducted research that has led to alarming findings in regard to poor JJCPA administration. They have found unspent funds accruing, funds being misused, and a failure to comply with mandated processes.

Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act

The JJCPA was enacted in 2000 to support youth on a local level, in an effort to limit their involvement in the juvenile justice system. However, county spending has fallen short of the bill’s original goals for the past 20 years. Even though youth arrests have declined by over 80 percent, along with major drops in probation referrals, most counties spend the majority of their JJCPA funds on probation staffing. Little or none is invested in community-based organizations.

Some counties in the state have used JJCPA funds for probation programs that have resulted in what is known as net-widening. This can have a negative impact on youth participants and their families. In addition, the agencies and organizations providing services for youth in marginalized communities across the state have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The PROMSYE Act bill will ensure stable funding for critical services operated by public health agencies, schools, and community-based organizations as they support at-promise and justice-involved youth.

Youth Development and Crime Prevention

Senator Bradford stated that, “Reforming JJCPA responds to rising calls for racial justice and addresses economic challenges heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill will provide for greater accountability, effectiveness, and equity in supporting our youth. The PROMYSE Act will ensure state funds are invested in youth development and crime prevention.” 

The Senators and the co-sponsors of SB 493 recognize that education, health, and community-based services are essential in preventing young people’s exposure to the justice system. The bill will be a critical step toward establishing a stronger foundation for the future of youth in California. As a result of the PROMSYE Act, community-based programs centered on positive youth development will be better able to serve youth and fulfill the original vision for JJCPA.

SB 493 Impact

When enacted, the legislation will:

  • Ensure equal community representation in the decision making process by requiring each county’s Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council, which decides how JJCPA funds are spent, to designate co-chairs and allocate 50 percent of its seats to community members.
  • Reinvest JJCPA dollars into communities by requiring counties to distribute at least 95 percent of allotted JJCPA funds to community-based organizations and/or public agencies that are non-law enforcement agencies.
  • Strengthen county reporting and evaluation processes by the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) by including critical evidence regarding program effectiveness and youth served.

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney

Please contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh if your son or daughter is in legal trouble or faces school expulsion. Attorney Walsh has the expertise to advocate for your loved one's well-being successfully. For a free consultation, call Katie Walsh at (714) 351-0178.