Thursday, March 17, 2016

Bill to Reduce Juvenile Incarceration Pending

As part of a larger effort to reduce the incarcerated populations in overcrowded prisons, Governor Jerry Brown proposed a bill last November that would make it more difficult to charge juveniles as adults in criminal cases.

The initiative was initially blocked by a judge in Sacramento, but the California Supreme Court said they would hear arguments about the bill’s legality. The bill seeks to repeal part of an initiative from 2000 that permits prosecutors to charge juveniles as young as 14 as adults in cases involving serious offenses.

The bill would also require juvenile court judges to review each case individually and determine based on the specific facts and circumstances of each case whether the juvenile should be tried in juvenile court or adult court.

Perhaps the most important distinction between being tried as an adult and tried as a juvenile is the disparity in sentencing consequences. Juveniles tried as adults can be sentenced as adults, and as such can face much longer or severe sentences.Juveniles sentenced in juvenile court to incarceration must be released at age 23.

While legal and political battles over the bill continue, supporters are working to collect the necessary number of signatures from registered voters to put the bill on the ballot in the November general election.

California’s prisons are overcrowded and the state has taken measures to actively decrease its prison population. This particular bill is one of the more direct efforts to reduce the number of juveniles who are incarcerated in our state. Its future remains to be seen, both in court and potentially on the ballot. 

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

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

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Sexting at School

sexting at school law
Los Angeles students could soon get kicked out of school for sexting. Assemblyman Ed Chau introduced a Sexting bill (Assembly Bill 2536) Feb. 19, 2016 following at least 20 other states with anti-sexting laws. This bill is more specific than existing cyberbullying and child pornography laws in California. Assembly Bill 2536 would give schools the right to expel or suspend students for sending nude or sexually explicit photos and images electronically “with the purpose or effect of humiliating or harassing a pupil.” The law would apply to students who “sext” in that manner when at school or school-sanctioned events or on the way to or from school or school events. The bill addresses “photographs and visual recordings” sent to the targets of the bullying or to other students or school personnel.

It’s specifically geared towards the recent trend of children “sexting”, and gives school districts a way to discipline students who have directed their sexting at classmates or teachers but whose actions don't reach a legal threshold for criminality. This would give school officials the option to expel or suspend students if they are found sexting. The bill will also require schools to include discussions of sexting in sexual health classes to teach about its legal ramifications and potential connection to cyberbullying.

The concern and pushback regarding the bill is that “expelling a child doesn’t solve the problem, because the child can continue the activity from home ” noted Robert Lotter chief executive at My Mobile Watch Dog, a company that allows parents to monitor their child’s technology. Catherine Hill, vice president for research at the American Association of University Women, said she would prefer an approach to sexting that allows the students to address their actions while remaining on campus and receiving counseling.

If Assembly Bill 2536 passes, schools will have to show the child did the act with the specific purpose or effect of humiliating or harassing the other student.

Has your child been involved in sexting and facing criminal charges or school expulsion issues? Contact the Law Office of Katie Walsh for help (714) 619-9355.