Friday, December 18, 2015

Report Reflects New and Old Ways of Thinking About Juvenile Justice

A new report from the Council of State Governments indicates that while juvenile incarceration rates have declined over the past 15 to 20 years, recidivism rates of juvenile offenders have not.

According to statistics released by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, juvenile incarceration rates across the states have declined by 55 percent between 1997 and 2013. However, juvenile offenders have been re-arrested at rates as high as 80 percent within the last three years of release.

The Council of State Governments’ report indicates that three key factors to preventing recidivism are access to education, employment, and mental health or substance abuse treatment. However, what works for or may be appropriate for a 16-year-old is different for that of a 20-year-old. States must provide a range of resources that are customizable to youth based on their age and background.

Data released from Texas at a recent forum on juvenile justice suggests that juvenile offenders who are placed in probationary programs and treatment tend to have lower recidivism rates than youth in state prison facilities. In those programs youth typically receive individualized plans for improvement and access to resources.

Researchers have known for a long time that juveniles are psychologically and socially less developed than adults. In order to help youth succeed after entering and leaving the criminal justice system, courts and community organizations need to do help youth access educational and employment opportunities, as well as appropriate substance abuse or mental health services.

Katie Walsh is an attorney in Orange County, California whose practice emphasizes juvenile law and victim’s rights.

Contact the Law Office of Katie Walsh at 714-619-9355.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Changing the School Disciplinary Process for the Better

The process by which schools discipline their students has been under scrutiny nationwide for many years because of concerns about unfair procedures, racial bias, and the impact school suspension or expulsion can have on a student’s education and future.

A new report just released by the UCLA Civil Rights Project, however, indicates that California is leading a national effort to reform school disciplinary procedures for the better. In many California school districts, the report states, suspension rates have dramatically decreased and academic progress is notable.

For years researchers and school authorities have studied and noted the collateral consequences of a student’s suspension. For instance, a student who is suspended is more likely to drop out of school or become involved in the juvenile justice system. Students of color are also suspended at rates notably higher than white students.

The UCLA study specifically pointed to the Alameda and Berkeley school districts as models of success. In both counties, the report asserted, the schools have “successfully reduced suspension rates while improving test scores.”

What is the cause of the success in Alameda and Berkeley school districts? While it is hard to pinpoint the proximate cause of the turnaround in these areas, the report’s authors observed that both districts devoted more resources and staff to improving their disciplinary approach, reducing bullying, and implementing restorative justice initiatives.

School suspensions and expulsions can have short-term and long-term consequences for students of all ages. If your child is facing serious disciplinary proceedings in school, speak with a lawyer to ensure your child’s rights under the applicable rules and regulations are protected.

Katie Walsh is an attorney in Orange County, California. Her practice focuses on juvenile law, criminal law, and assisting victims of crimes.

Contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh at 714-619-9355.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Juvenile Waiver of Miranda Rights

California Supreme Court
Last Friday, October 16, the California Supreme Court voted against reviewing a case involving a ten-year-old boy’s confession and a waiver of his Miranda rights.

In a closed session, the justices voted 4 to 3 against hearing the case involving a ten-year-old boy from Riverside County who confessed to killing his father, Jeff Hall.

The decision not to review the case means that the Court of Appeals’ decision that the boy made a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of his Miranda rights stands and the confession was not obtained in an illegal manner.

Miranda rights frequently appear in public discourse and on television. They must be provided to suspects who are in police custody and are being interrogated. They include the right to remain silent, the right to know that anything one says can be used against them, and the right to an attorney regardless of whether they can afford one.

Individuals may waive their Miranda rights and speak with police during interrogations, but such waivers must be made knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily.

Studies have shown that juveniles are impressionable and susceptible to pressure, and the law has been careful to create extra precautions for juvenile suspects and their waiver of Miranda rights. 

One of the dissenting justices from last Friday’s decision suggested that the California State Legislature look at the matter and consider revising existing law or create new rules regarding whether a child as young as ten can validly waive such important legal rights.

Whether the Legislature—or the courts in another case—will do so remains to be seen.

Katie Walsh is an attorney in Orange County, California who concentrates her practice in juvenile law, criminal defense and victims’ rights.

Contact the Law Office of Katie Walsh today.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Immigrant Victims Crime Equity Act Heads to Governor Brown

Earlier this month, the California State Assembly unanimously passed the Immigrant Victims of Crime Equity Act, formally known as SB 674, 66 votes to 0.

The proposed law provides increased protection to victims of crime who are undocumented immigrants and who may fear contacting the authorities will only bring unwanted attention from law enforcement.

The bill requires state and local law enforcement agencies to provide the necessary certifications to an undocumented immigrant who is applying for a U-Visa, otherwise known as a Victim of Criminal Activity visa.

This effort to streamline an otherwise complex immigration process and application is designed to encourage and help undocumented immigrants who are the victims of certain rimes to come forward and cooperate with law enforcement for the investigation and prosecution.

The overall incentive is to generally increase public safety. Senate President Pro Tem, Kevin de Leon, is reported to have said “[e]very time a criminal goes free because the victim fears deportation and the police, we are all a little less safe…Fear and mistrust are obstacles to the administration of justice.”

SB 674 specifically provides that law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, judges, child protective services, various state agencies, and any other investigative or criminal detective services qualify as “certifying entity,” which are authorized to provide undocumented immigrants with the certification for the U-Visa application.

The bill also lists, but is not limited to, 28 particular “qualifying crimes” that allow the victims to apply for the certification.

At this time, the bill awaits approval or veto from Governor Jerry Brown.

Katie Walsh is an attorney who focuses her practice on Victims' Rights and Juvenile Law in Orange County, California.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Study Finds Drop in California Juvenile Crime

Photo Courtesy of CA L.A.O.
The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice recently released a report on juvenile crime in California, and concluded there was an “enormous decline in arrests among the youngest Californians” over the past thirty years.

This conclusion is consistent with the latest data from the California Attorney General’s Office. 

According to the report, not only has there been a decline in arrests, but graduation rates, college enrollment, and health trends have increased.

As California has become more diverse over the past twenty to thirty years, this report and the Attorney General’s data indicate that increased diversity does not correlate with more crime.

In Sacramento County alone, arrest rates for children under the age of ten decreased by 98% between 1980 and 2013.

Overall, arrest rates for children under twelve, teens and young adults greatly declined. Arrest rates for persons over twenty-five slightly increased, however.

As juvenile crime rates decrease in California, the state may be able to reallocate resources from juvenile detention facilities to alternative treatment or diversionary programs to help youth in trouble.
It remains to be seen if California will adjust its juvenile justice policies in light of the findings of this study.

Katie Walsh is an attorney in Orange County, California who focuses her practice on juvenile law and criminal defense.

Contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh today at 714-619-9355.

Monday, July 27, 2015

CA Court of Appeals Rules Juveniles Can Change Records


Last week, in keeping with a ballot initiative passed by California voters last year, a California court of appeals issued an important decision with profound consequences for juveniles convicted of certain crimes.

On Thursday, July 23, the California Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled that juvenile offenders are eligible to have specific felonies reduced to misdemeanors.

According to experts, the reclassification of certain felony convictions to misdemeanors has implications under California’s three strikes law.

The ruling is consistent with Proposition 47, a ballot measure approved last year that reclassified certain drug and property felonies as misdemeanors.

The legislation and ruling ultimately reflects a change in the criminal justice system that seeks to address particular drug or property crimes in a different manner.

Rather than exacting a heavy punishment and incarceration, the conversion of these crimes from felonies to misdemeanors aims to reduce overcrowding in prisons and divert resources from jails to treatment or other diversion programs.

This particular decision arose from a case where a juvenile appealed his felony conviction for commercial burglary. The juvenile’s lawyers argued that Proposition 47, now passed, required that the felony be reclassified as a misdemeanor. The Appeals Court agreed and ruled in the juvenile's favor.

Prosecutors have not yet announced whether they will appeal the ruling.

To speak with an experienced juvenile law and defense attorney, contact the Law Office of Katie Walsh today at 714-619-9355.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

California Legislation Seeks To Curb Solitary Confinement For Juveniles

On June 2, 2015, the California Senate passed Senate Bill 124, which aims to severely limit, if not effectively eliminate, solitary confinement in juvenile detention facilities.

The Bill goes before the full Assembly this summer, and, if passed, would be among the most progressive pieces of legislation concerning juvenile detention in the country.

Inhumane and unconscionable conditions in juvenile detention facilities have been documented and exposed around the country, prompting national calls for reform. Isolating youth, particularly youth with mental health issues, only creates or exacerbates pre-existing psychological or emotional conditions, including increasing the risk of or causing suicide.

Senate Bill 124 would restrict the use of solitary confinement in California juvenile detention facilities to very limited purposes. For instance, it would only allow for the facility to use solitary confinement for up to 4 hours per day, and only as a measure of last resort, which must be documented.

Furthermore, such isolation would only be permitted if the youth poses as an imminent risk of substantial harm to other youth or facility officers, and all other less restrictive measures have been explored.

At this time, approximately 700 youth are incarcerated in California’s correctional juvenile detention facilities. Investigations of some facilities within the past few years have found that juveniles were isolated for up to 23 hours per day, or only permitted outdoors for 40 minutes per day.

SB 124 is co-sponsored by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Youth Justice Coalition, the California Public Defender’s Association, and the Children’s Defense Fund – California.

Katie Walsh is a criminal defense attorney in Santa Ana, emphasizing her practice in juvenile law and victim rights.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

CA Supreme Court Issues Ruling On Juvenile Competency



On May 18, the California Supreme Court published In re R.V., an important decision with major implications for juveniles facing criminal prosecution in California courts.

The Court ruled that juveniles, like adults, have a due process right not to be tried while they are deemed mentally incompetent. Juveniles are presumed competent to stand trial unless the juvenile defendant rebuts this presumption by proving his/her incompetency by a preponderance of the evidence. 

Section 709 of the California Criminal Code governs juvenile competency proceedings. Section 709 defines a minor as incompetent if her or she

(i) Lacks sufficient present ability to consult with counsel and assist in preparing his or her defense with a reasonable degree of rational understanding; or

(ii) Lacks a rational as well as factual understanding, of the nature of the charges or proceedings against him or her.”

If, after an examination and a hearing, the juvenile is deemed incompetent then the criminal proceedings against the minor will be temporarily suspended for no longer than is reasonably necessary for the minor to receive services and to try and regain competency.

In this particular case, a minor was arrested in Orange County in 2012 after allegedly brandishing a knife at family members during a dispute about his going to school. Despite the juvenile’s attorney’s arguments that his client was not competent to stand trial, the juvenile was nevertheless tried for the crime.

The juvenile appealed the decision all the way to the California Supreme Court, which ultimately agreed with the minor that he was incompetent at the time of trial.

Like adult defendants, juveniles charged with crimes have important constitutional rights that must be protected in order to receive due process and a fair trial.

If your child or that of someone you know is being investigated or charged with a crime, contact the Law Office of Katie Walsh to speak with a knowledgeable juvenile and criminal defense lawyer today.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

How Can You Better Talk To Your Child?


Attorney Katie Walsh
Parenting can be very frustrating at times, and speaking (or having an actual conversation) with your teenager can seem like you are banging your head against a wall! A lot of one word answers.

But what we don’t want to forget is deep down your child does want connect with you: in their own way, in their own time, and on their terms not your terms.

The more connected to their parents, the more comfortable they feel talking to their parents, the more likely your child will stay out of trouble, or come to you if friends are trying to lead them down the wrong path.

We all know the basic rule: Ask Open Ended Questions- don’t ask questions that lead to just a “yes” or “no” answer. But you don’t want the questions to be so broad, “How was school today?” or “What did you do at school today?” that the answer, coming from a tight-lipped teen, ultimately ends up being a “fine,” or “nothing much.” The key is to find the happy medium!
  1. Don’t ask questions like a parole officer. Ask like someone who is genuinely curious. 
  2. Don’t ask random questions purely to ask a question. LISTEN to what your teen is saying in the car rides, on their phone (yes, I am advocating eavesdropping) to friends, what they are laughing at, what they don’t like and BUILD from there. 
  3. 3) Pause. Be a fly on the wall. Just observe your kid for a bit. What songs do they like right now, what TV shows are they watching, what books are they reading, what computer games are they playing: what are they “into” presently- and BUILD from there. 
With help from the Huffington Post, a list helpful hints and questions on how a parent can better converse and understand their child:
  1. What was the best thing that happened at school today? (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?) 
  2. Tell me something that made you laugh today. 
  3. If you could choose, who would you like to sit by in class? (Who would you NOT want to sit by in class? Why?) 
  4. Where is the coolest place at the school? 
  5. Tell me a weird word that you heard today. (Or something weird that someone said.) 
  6.  If I called your teacher tonight, what would she tell me about you? 
  7.  How did you help somebody today? 
  8.  How did somebody help you today? 
  9.  Tell me one thing that you learned today. 
  10.  When were you the happiest today? 
  11.  When were you bored today? 
  12.  If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed someone up, who would you want them to take? 
  13.  Who would you like to play with at recess that you've never played with before? 
  14.  Tell me something good that happened today. 
  15.  What word did your teacher say most today? 
  16.  What do you think you should do/learn more of at school? 
  17.  What do you think you should do/learn less of at school? 
  18.  Who in your class do you think you could be nicer to? 
  19.  Where do you play the most at recess? 
  20.  Who is the funniest person in your class? Why is he/she so funny? 
  21.  What was your favorite part of lunch? 
  22.  If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do? 
  23.  Is there anyone in your class who needs a time-out? 
  24.  If you could switch seats with anyone in the class, who would you trade with? Why?
  25. Tell me about three different times you used your pencil today at school. 
If your child has been involved with the police or charged with a crime, contact the Law Office of Katie Walsh at (714) 619-9355.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

W & I 786: New Sealing of Records Law in 2015

Effective January 1, 2015, California Senate Bill 1038 enacted a new law allowing most minors in Juvenile Court who have satisfactorily completed probation, probation without wardship or informal handling, and who appear before the Juvenile Court after January 1, 2015, for their termination hearing to have their records sealed immediately by the court. No longer do they have to wait until they are 18 or older or, if under 18, five years must have passed since their last arrest or when they were last on probation. Further, they do not have to pay a sealing fee to the court. The newly enacted legislation is found in the California Welfare and Institutions (W & I ) Code section 786.

EXCEPTIONS

  1. The exception to the law is for minors, fourteen years of age or older, who had admitted to Welfare and Institution Code section 707(b) offenses. The new law would not apply to them (nor does it apply under the regular Sealing of Records standards). Section 707 (b) lists thirty types of offenses that are covered by this section. In general, it refers to the most serious type of offenses such as murder, arson, robbery, sex offenses where force is found to be true, and assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury as a felony. Offenses such as first degree burglary, burglary of a residence, are not a 707(b) offense. If there are any questions whether the minor’s offense is a 707(b) offense, the parent/juvenile should consult with an attorney knowledgeable in juvenile law.
  2. The new law does not apply to juveniles who had their cases terminated for satisfactory completion of probation, probation without wardship, or informal handling prior to January 1, 2015. At this time, those juveniles must comply with Welfare and Institutions section 781. The juvenile must wait until they are 18 or older or, if under 18, five years must have passed since their last arrest or when they were last on probation. Further, under 781, the court required the juvenile to pay a sealing fee. That can be waived if there is proof of inability to pay. 

OFFENSES


If a juvenile did admit to a 707(b) offense in Juvenile Court and they were fourteen years of age or older at the time of the offense, there is still some hope to petition to get their record sealed. They could file a petition pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 782 to request of the court to dismiss their case in the interest of justice. If the court does dismiss the 707(b) petition, the juvenile can petition to seal their record pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 781.

We highly recommend all juveniles with juvenile records get their records sealed. Perhaps the police detained your minor and investigated a case concerning your minor but no charges were filed in Juvenile Court. Perhaps the case was handled informally by probation and no charges were filed in Juvenile Court. Your minor still has a juvenile record with the police agency that investigated the case and the local juvenile probation department. Even though they were never charged in court, they need to get their record sealed with all agencies that had any connection with their matter.

The difference in the sealing laws for minors before and after January 1, 2015, could change and the parent/juvenile should check later in the year with a knowledgeable attorney to see if the courts or legislature have corrected the differences. Furthermore, at the end of your child’s probationary period (post 2015), your attorney should request to have the child’s record sealed and destroyed under 781. A knowledgeable Juvenile Attorney will know to do that.

If your child has been charged with a crime, or has juvenile records they need sealed, please contact the Law Office of Katie Walsh at (714) 619-9355.