Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Controversial Senate Bill 1391 In Governor's Hands

SB 1391
In April, we discussed Senate Bill 1391. If signed into law, SB 1391 would amend Proposition 57, repealing the authority of a district attorney to make a motion to transfer a minor from juvenile court to a court of criminal jurisdiction in a case in which a minor is alleged to have committed a specified serious offense when he or she was 14 or 15 years of age.

While some juvenile justice advocates are in favor of legislation that prevents cognitively undeveloped people from standing trial in the adult criminal courts, the loved ones of victims of senseless crimes are not happy that killers may get out of jail one day and lead “normal” lives. To say SB 1391 is controversial may be an understatement; and, juvenile law experts contend that they can sympathize with arguments for and against the legislation, CBS Sacramento reports. Now, the fate of the bill falls on California Gov. Jerry Brown.

“It’s a symptom of the modern trend to believe that kids that are that young, of the age of 14 and 15 are probably not capable of really the kind of sophistication that would expect to be tried in criminal court,” said John Myers, professor, McGeorge School of Law. Myers adds that “There are some very sophisticated 14- and 15-year-old gangbangers out there that are cold-blooded killers, so I understand that if your child or loved one is killed by a gang member who happens to be 15 why you think it's wrong, it’s a sympathetic argument.”

Trying 15-Year-Olds As Adults


SB 1391 was introduced in April by state Sens. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles). The bill is one of several new laws focused on rehabilitation over incarceration, and to reduce the overburdened criminal justice system.

“Research has debunked the myth that children are hardened criminals at age 14 and 15 and deserve punishment in the adult system,” Lara said in a news release. “In fact, 14- and 15-year-olds are far from being adults and Senate Bill 1391 keeps them in the juvenile justice system and guarantees they receive counseling and education, so they are less likely to commit crimes in the future.”

The bill is either a second chance for young offenders or a law that puts rehabilitation over public safety, and it is what Gov. Brown will have to wrestle with before the September 30th deadline. Please take a moment to watch a short video below:



If you are having trouble watching the video, please click here.

If passed, it purportedly would apply retroactively to certain cases involving minors tried as adults. We will continue to follow this important story as it develops.

Orange County Juvenile Justice Attorney


Please contact Attorney Katie Walsh if you need an experienced juvenile defense lawyer in California. Juvenile defense attorney Walsh can help you obtain the best possible outcome for your son or daughter's case.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Expanding School Disruption and Defiance Ban

Sb 607
In 2014, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a K-3 suspension ban for “disruption and defiance” infractions. Friday of last week, the California Legislature voted in favor of Senate Bill 607, authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, to expand the ban to include suspensions through the 8th grade, EdSource reports. Sen. Skinner had initially hoped that the expansion would consist of all high-schoolers, as opposed to just K-8.

It remains unclear if Gov. Brown will get behind the bill and pen his name to the legislation; but, it’s worth noting that Brown vetoed a total K-12 “disruption and defiance” ban in 2012, only to later sign a less comprehensive ban in 2014. Brown’s previous opposition stems from his belief that state-mandated prohibitions interfere with local school district control. Local control is the cornerstone of his education policy, according to the article. The California School Boards Association and the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) supports expanding the ban. However, the California Charter Schools Association and the California Teachers Association have taken a neutral stance.

A Dramatic Drop In Suspensions


Initially, the ACSA was opposed to including higher grade levels into the suspension ban; then, the organization learned about how racial disparities continue to be the status quo for disruption and defiance suspensions throughout the state, the article reports. The ACLU of Southern California conducted an analysis of state data and found that African-American and Latino boys received more than half of the state’s disruption and defiance suspensions during the 2016-17 school year. It’s worth noting that Black and Latino children make up only 30.7 percent of all California students. 

“This wasn’t an easy decision for ACSA, but our folks are really concerned with the disparities in terms of how willful defiance suspensions are applied,” Iv├ín Carrillo, a legislative advocate for the school administrators’ association, said. “Our membership takes a big issue with that and we want to continue to utilize other creative, research-based tools to deal with student behavior while at the same time protecting the classroom.”

When students are taken out of the class for slight infractions they are more likely to find themselves in additional trouble down the road, i.e., the school-to-prison pipeline. A more significant reliance on evidence-based restorative justice techniques could help the state for years to come.

“All the stakeholders are either supportive or neutral, which is great,” Skinner tells EdSource. “Now the question is does it meet the governor’s comfortability, which it should. The whole objective is to give kids the best chance at being successful — and kicking them out of school, even if it’s just for a few days, is not a recipe for success.” 

Several municipalities have already taken the initiative and instituted their own K-12 willful defiance suspension bans, in lieu of a statewide ban. We will just have to wait and see which way Gov. Brown goes on SB 607.

Orange County Juvenile Justice


If your son or daughter is at risk of school expulsion in California, please contact The Law Offices Katie Walsh at your earliest convenience. Attorney Walsh has extensive experience handling these types of cases and can advocate on behalf of your family to safeguard your child’s rights.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Juveniles With Cognitive Deficiencies Held for Years

People who are charged with a crime have the right to stand trial, in a timely manner. Amendment VI of the U.S. Constitution - Rights of Accused in Criminal Prosecutions – states that:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense. 

If an adult is deemed incompetent to stand trial for a crime by a judge, owing to their cognitive deficiencies or mental fitness, they are held for a set period to bring them up to speed on how the courts work. The goal, improve a plaintiff's general understanding of how the courts operate and to enhance their cognitive functioning—with the hope that one day they will be fit to stand before the courts. When it comes to minors in California, however, there is currently no cap on how long they can be detained for the above purposes, Mother Jones reports. The result, kids with cognitive deficiencies, end up in custody for months or years; they are not confined to their home or hospitals, more times than not they are housed in juvenile detention facilities.

“Because there’s no other place to house them, we end up with these minors in juvenile hall,” says Jim Salio, president of the Chief Probation Officers of California. “They really should be in some other place.”

Assembly Bill 1214


Ab 1214In California, existing law requires court proceedings be suspended if substantial evidence raises a doubt as to the minor’s competency to stand trial. At which time, the court is to order that the minor’s competence be determined at a hearing, and the court is to appoint an expert to decide if a child’s incompetence stems from a mental disorder, developmental disability, developmental immaturity, or other condition. As was mentioned above, this process can go on indefinitely; Salio says that some teens are held two or three years, without trial.

Lawmakers in Sacramento are considering AB 1214, authored by California Assemblymember Mark Stone, that limits the length of time a child can be held after being deemed unfit to stand trial, according to the article. As written, the bill’s passing would mean that the majority of kids could be detained six months while receiving instructions on how the courts work. Those accused of specific violent crimes could be held for 18 months. The bill also calls for laying out and improving the services relied on for educating young people.

California Juvenile Defense Attorney


Attorney Katie Walsh has extensive experience in the field of juvenile law, and she can advocate for your family to ensure your son or daughter obtains the best possible outcome for their case. Please contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation to hire, consultation.