Katie's Blog

Monday, February 3, 2020

Raising the Adult Prosecution Age in California

juvenile justice
Neuroscientists say that the brain doesn't fully mature until age 25, which makes you wonder why teenagers are considered adults at the age of 18. What's more, in some cases, teens under 18 years of age are prosecuted as adults in the criminal justice system.

Researchers have long understood that adolescents are impulsive and reckless; they do not think before they act more times than not. The reason teens make rash decisions or break the law isn't that they are necessarily immoral. Instead, teenagers are impulsive because their prefrontal cortex — the region of the brain that helps stifle impulsive behavior — is not yet fully developed.

Consider that one has to be 21 years old to buy a beer, but can be prosecuted as an adult at the age of 17. In recent years, many states have even raised the age to buy cigarettes to 21; the reason for the change is to allow the prefrontal cortex more time to develop.

The three years added will hopefully enable young people to make more rational decisions regarding nicotine. What's more, in the twilight of 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration officially changed the federal minimum age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21.

So, if scientists agree that the brain isn't fully developed until the mid-twenties, then shouldn't lawmakers amend the age at which a teen can be tried as an adult. California Senator Nancy Skinner thinks so, and she has introduced legislation that would raise the age to 20 for adult prosecution.

Senate Bill 889

Last week, Sen. Skinner introduced Senate Bill 889 Juveniles, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The measure lacks specifics and is currently a placeholder bill. Still, if it is approved and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, the legislation would raise the age limit on California's youth justice system.

"We have 21 as the age for alcohol. We have 21 as the age for tobacco," said Sen. Skinner. "The research definitely shows that there's an age difference in things like impulse control." 

In November of 2019, the California Probation Officers Association (CPOA) proposed raising the state's adult prosecution age to 20, the article reports. Currently, 17-year-olds throughout the state are sent up to the adult court. The CPOAs plan would let people under the age of 20 get rehabilitative services provided by juvenile courts and detention centers. It would also offer more youths the opportunity to have their criminal records sealed.

The Chief Probation Officers of California (CPOC), the CPOAs lobbying group, cites research indicating that people as old as 25 share many of the same characteristics as teens, according to the SF Chronicle. The shared traits include peer pressure susceptibility and impulsive behavior.

In the coming months, Senator Skinner, D-Berkeley, will finalize the details of SB 889 by joining forces with juvenile justice reform advocates such as the CPOA and the Commonwealth Juvenile Justice Program.

"This is a reform whose time has come," said David Steinhart, director of the Commonweal Juvenile Justice Program. "It will improve public safety by putting thousands of California's youth back into education and on job tracks that are blocked when they are processed as adults."

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney

Juvenile defense attorney Katie Walsh has an extensive amount of experience advocating for youths and their families. As a former juvenile prosecutor at the Lamoreaux Justice Center in the City of Orange, Mrs. Walsh has a unique understanding of the juvenile justice system. Her knowledge and experience can make a significant difference in your child's future. Please contact us today for a free consultation to discuss the charges your loved one is facing and how Attorney Walsh can help.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Willful Defiance Suspensions Law Takes Effect

Willful Defiance Suspensions
At The Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we hope that everyone had a peaceful holiday season, and we would like to wish you a happy New Year. We felt it prudent to use the first post of 2020 to discuss some of the new legislation that went into effect this year, particularly laws that impact school children. 

There are many new California school laws to talk about; 12 in fact, and we will do our best to give you a summary of the changes in 2020. Naturally, we cannot cover each new law in great detail in one post; instead, we will focus on some of the most salient.

From legislation regarding willful defiance suspensions to an overhaul of the state’s charter school system, Governor Gavin Newsom signed some important laws last year that will affect millions of young people across the Golden State.

As CalMatters reports, the most significant set of changes involve Charter Schools: a school category that receives government funding but doesn’t operate within the established state school system. Such schools are typically established by teachers, parents, or community groups.

Three new laws – Assembly Bill 1505, Assembly Bill 1507, and Senate Bill 126 – deal specifically with California charter schools. Teachers at charter schools are now required to hold a state teaching credential, the Times of San Diego reports. Local school boards also have more significant discretion in approving or denying charter schools. What’s more, charters must follow the same open-meeting laws as school districts.

Willful Defiance Suspensions, Domestic Violence, and Sexual Harassment

We have covered Senate Bill 419: Pupil discipline: suspensions: willful defiance on multiple occasions. As we pointed out, Senator Nancy Skinner’s SB 419 would have banned out-of-school suspensions for “defiant and disruptive behavior” for grades K-12.

The final version of the bill, signed by Gov. Newsom in September, permanently bans California public schools from suspending students K-5 for willful defiance. The bill also includes a five-year temporary provision extending the ban to include students in sixth through eighth grade.

Studies indicate that willful defiance school suspensions and expulsions disproportionately impact black, LGBTQ, and disabled students. Sen. Skinner said:

“When you look at the data on who is suspended, you can’t help but see the stark reality. Boys of color, kids in special education, LGBTQ kids — kids who don’t fit all of our cultural norms — are targeted due to the implicit bias that we know is present in every institution we have.”

In October, SB 316 goes into effect; the law requires that high schools print the phone number for the national domestic violence hotline or a local domestic violence hotline on pupil identification cards. Assembly Bill 543 requires public high schools to “prominently and conspicuously display” a poster of a district’s sexual harassment policy in every high school restroom and locker room, according to the article. The sign must also include steps for reporting sexual harassment accusations.

Orange County Juvenile Defense and School Expulsion Attorney

If your son or daughter is facing expulsion in California, then it is vital for you to reach out for a qualified attorney who can advocate for your family. Navigating the school expulsion process is a daunting task; having an experienced defense attorney could lead to alternatives to expulsion. 

Attorney Katie Walsh understands what you are going through and will work tirelessly to safeguard your child’s rights. Please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh today for a free consultation. (714) 619-9355

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Supreme Court Ruling Affects Young Offenders

parole board
In 2011, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller v. Alabama led California lawmakers to pass legislation that would give prisoners convicted as youths a second chance. One such individual is William Palmer, who at the age of 17 held an off-duty police officer at gunpoint demanding money. The Marshall Project recently examined Palmer's case.

As a minor, Mr. Palmer ordered the off-duty officer to go to an ATM to withdraw cash. However, the victim was also armed and managed to fire a salvo of bullets at the perpetrator. Palmer was wounded in the knee and eventually apprehended.

The year was 1988, and it was a time when several states were simultaneously passing 'tough on crime' laws. As such, someone like Palmer could receive a life sentence for attempted armed robbery. The judge presiding over Palmer's case decided to hand down a life sentence with the possibility of parole, according to the exposé. However, all of Palmer's attempts to be released from prison were rejected by the parole board; Mr. Palmer was denied on ten separate occasions over the years.

Palmer was finally released from prison after filing an appeal, but he is not in the clear yet. His case is poised to go before the California Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court's Decision Could Impact Thousands of Prisoners

Palmer was expelled from school in 10th grade and left home at 16, according to the article. There is a growing body of research that suggests that the decisions people make as young people are not a predictor of a life of crime — Mr. Palmer's attorneys plan to cite those types of studies before the Supreme Court.

While in prison, Palmer did have a few minor infractions that may have influenced the parole board's repeated rejections. However, Palmer's time behind bars was not wasted; he earned a GED and an associate degree, the article reports. What's more, he took part in programs to help him better understand the impact of his crimes.

The issue at hand, the California Supreme Court must decide whether the parole board took Palmer's youth into account when they rejected his release. The Court of Appeal found that the parole board had not considered his age at the time of his crime and ordered the parole board to conduct another hearing which led to his release.

However, the California Attorney General's Office asked the Supreme Court to review the case. If the justices side with Palmer, it could lay out a path to release for other young offenders serving lengthy sentences. If he loses, it's back to prison, and Palmer will have to go before the board once again.

"I hope it means more people will see freedom earlier for things they did when they were children," said Megan Havstad, Palmer's lawyer.

California Juvenile Law Attorney

Please reach out to The Law Offices of Katie Walsh if your son or daughter requires legal assistance. Attorney Walsh has significant experience advocating for young people and their families. We invite you to request a free consultation to learn more about how we can help you during this difficult time.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

SB-190: California Counties Fail to Comply

On numerous occasions, we have covered Senate Bill 190: Ending Juvenile Administrative Fees (SB-190), a piece of legislation that abolished entire categories of monetary sanctions in the juvenile legal system and a subset of fees for young people in the adult legal system. Signed into law by former Governor Jerry Brown in 2017, the landmark law went into effect on January 1, 2018.

SB-190 has several facets that are meant to take some of the financial burden off young people who are in legal trouble and their families. The bipartisan legislation prohibits California counties from charging fees to parents and guardians for their child’s:
  • Detention
  • Representation by Counsel
  • Electronic Monitoring
  • Probation Supervision
  • Drug Testing
The bill also removed each county’s authority to charge young people, ages 18–21, in the adult system for home detention, electronic monitoring, and drug testing. Senators Holly J. Mitchell and Ricardo Lara wrote SB 190 to:

“eliminate a source of financial harm to some of the state’s most vulnerable families, support the reentry of youth back into their homes and communities, and reduce the likelihood that youth will recidivate.”

Failure to Comply with SB-190

The Berkeley Law Policy Advocacy Clinic conducted a study on behalf of the Western Center on Law & Poverty to give a status report on the implementation of SB-190, according to The Crime Report. Study co-authors Stephanie Campos-Bui and Jess Bartholow identified 22 counties in violation of law by continuing to charge fees, demand past fees, and bill families through the child support system.

While the revelation is concerning, the status report did have some positive findings. SB-190 did not waive previously assessed fees; however, the authors write that “36 counties voluntarily discharged or stopped collecting them, relieving hundreds of thousands of families of more than $237 million.” 

The report indicates that the bill provided California families with hundreds of millions of dollars in relief. Before SB-190 went into effect, “families with youth in the juvenile legal system had more than $374 million in outstanding fee assessments.”

Researchers identified the worst offenders still pursuing legal fees from families with youths in the juvenile legal system. The five counties failing to comply the most are:
  • San Diego
  • Orange
  • Riverside
  • Tulare
  • Stanislaus
The study authors recommend that counties stop assessing all SB 190-prohibited fees through child support orders and to young people ages 18–21 in criminal court; counties should voluntarily stop collecting and discharge all previously assessed SB; counties should notify young people and families of all SB 190 fee relief and update all SB 190-related internal- and external-facing fee materials.

On the state level, The Berkeley Law Policy Advocacy Clinic recommends that the California Department of Social Services require local child support agencies to comply with SB 190. They add that the California Legislature and Governor should enact new legislation that waives all previously assessed fees.

California Juvenile Law Attorney

Attorney Katie Walsh has extensive experience in the juvenile legal system and previously worked as a prosecutor; she is in a unique position to advocate for your family and help your child achieve the best possible outcome in his or her case. Please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh today for a free consultation.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

SB 328: School Start Time and Suspension

SB 328
Keeping kids in the classroom is key to ensuring that students perform well academically. Students who act out in class risk suspension or worse, expulsion. Young people can have behavioral problems in school for a myriad of reasons, issues at home or mental health conditions are two of the more common causes. However, there is some evidence suggesting that sleep deprivation could be playing a role in teenage behavior.

Researchers Kevin Bastian and Sarah Fuller of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill analyzed data from more than 400 North Carolina high schools, according to Education Dive. They determined that students who start classes later in the morning were less likely to be suspended. Starting class at 8:30 a.m. or later was also linked to higher overall GPAs among students.

The findings noted above are interesting and have given several lawmakers across the country food for thought, especially in California. In recent years, there have been several attempts to push back school start times to allow young people more sleep.

Even though there is a growing body of evidence showing the benefits of such a move, former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have had middle and high schoolers start class at 8:30 a.m. However, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has a decidedly different stance on the subject.

SB 328 Pupil Attendance: School Start Time

This month, Gov. Newsom signed Senate Bill 328 into law, making it so that most middle schools and high schools will start class later, The Los Angeles Times reports. The change will be phased in and should be fully implemented by the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.

SB 328 is controversial; many school officials and some lawmakers oppose the move to start class later, according to the article. Concerns have been raised that the change could affect bus routes and prevent parents from dropping their kids off at school before work. The California Teachers Association called Newsom’s signing of the bill “unfortunate.”

Gov. Newsom defended his support for the bill by pointing to the available science. Studies correlate more sleep from later start times with better academic performance and better health. For those reasons, SB 328 has the support of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the California Medical Association, and the California State Parent Teacher Association.

An impetus for the bill was a 2014 opinion from the American Academy of Pediatrics stating that middle and high schools shouldn’t begin class until 8:30 a.m. California is the first state in the nation to pass legislation mandating later start times

“Today, Gov. Newsom displayed a heartwarming and discerning understanding of the importance of objective research and exercised strong leadership as he put our children’s health and welfare ahead of institutional bureaucracy resistant to change,” said Sen. Anthony Portantino, who authored the legislation. “Generations of children will come to appreciate this historic day and our governor for taking bold action. Our children face a public health crisis. Shifting to a later start time will improve academic performance and save lives because it helps our children be healthier.” Please take a moment to watch a short video on the subject:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

California School Expulsion Attorney

If your son or daughter is having difficulty in school and is facing school expulsion, then you must seek the assistance of an experienced juvenile defense lawyer. At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we can advocate for your family and safeguard your child’s rights.

Attorney Walsh can help you navigate the school expulsion hearing process and may be able to negotiate alternatives to expulsion. Please contact our office today for a free consultation.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Assembly Bill 1076: Expungement of a Conviction

Ab 1076
At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we help our clients clean up their criminal records. Each case is unique, but it is often possible to have an expungement of a conviction after successfully finishing probation. In some cases, an expunged conviction allows people to honestly answer "no" to questions on applications that deal with their criminal history.

Historically, Californians would require the assistance of an attorney to request that their conviction be expunged. Said lawyer would petition the courts to that end and hopefully achieve a favorable outcome.

It's worth noting that not all convictions are eligible to have their criminal records cleaned up. For instance, people convicted of sex crimes are exempt. However, those found guilty low-level offenses have an excellent opportunity at petitioning the courts for an expungement of a conviction. It's a process; but, it's worth it when you consider how a criminal record can affect employment and housing prospects. 

The process of expungement will undergo some changes soon, thanks to a new law signed by Governor Gavin Newsom earlier this month.

Assembly Bill 1076 Criminal Records: Automatic Relief

Reforming California's criminal justice system is a chief priority among lawmakers. In recent years, many laws have been passed to end draconian policies; we've written about several reforms on this blog.

In May, we discussed a piece of legislation that would make getting one's conviction expunged less challenging. Assembly Bill 1076 Criminal Records: Automatic Relief by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) was signed by Governor Newsom on October 8, 2019, according to Mojave Desert News. AB 1076 was one of 25 bills meant to reform the criminal justice system.

The passing of AB 1076 creates an automated record clearance system for qualifying low-level offenses, according to the article. Those who qualify will be able to seal their records without having first to petition the court. The automated record clearance system will apply to individuals ​arrested or convicted after January 1, 2021. People with any pending criminal charges will be excluded from the new policy.

"People shouldn't have to pay for their mistakes for the rest of their lives. A fresh start improves an individual's chances of succeeding and reduces the likelihood of recidivism. Automating the record clearance process will enable former offenders to get back on their feet and lead productive lives," said Assemblymember Ting. "Our economy and society pay the price when job-seeking workers are shut out."

Cleaning Up Your Criminal Record

It will be a while before the automated system is up running; in the meantime, please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh if you would like to clean up your criminal record. Attorney Walsh can help you petition the court for an expungement of a conviction or a certificate of rehabilitation.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Juvenile Sentencing Law Changing Lives

Senate Bill 1391 is in the news once again, which probably won't come as a surprise to our readers. The law raised the age that juvenile offenders can be tried as adults from 14 to 16. We've been covering this legislation since last year, when former Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1391 into law.

The bill may not mean much to most Californians, but to young offenders and their families it is monumental. As we've written previously, several counties have challenged the enactment of the new law. Opponents argue that it undermines Proposition 57. Approved in 2016, Prop 57 gave judges the power to decide whether juveniles as young as 14 should be tried as adults, instead of prosecutors. 

This summer, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco rejected Solano County's challenge to SB 1391. The final resolution will likely come about in the California Supreme Court in the near future. In the meantime, the law is still in play. Meaning, some young offenders are now looking at far lighter sentences than they would have last year.

From 65 Years to Six

Last year, two teenagers ages 14 and 15 were both looking at a 65-years-to-life sentence for an armed robbery. Thanks to SB 1391, Elijah Hall and Anthony Torres, then ages 14 and 15, are looking at six years, being eligible for parole at age 25, according to The Desert Sun. They were arrested in 2015 and sentenced to life for a spree of armed robberies.

They are both adults now and are serving their respective sentences, but the new juvenile sentencing law could mean that they will regain freedom much sooner.

One primary opponent of the SB 1391 is the judge who ruled on September 9th that the two men would be resentenced in juvenile court. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Russell Moore included an argument in his ruling that says the new law is unconstitutional, the article reports. He contends that lawmakers did not fully appreciate the impact of the new juvenile justice law and that it undermines the will of voters who approved Prop 57. Moore writes, "the Legislature unconstitutionally pulled the rug out from the voters."

"SB 1391 now means that juveniles 16 and older can conceivably be prosecuted in adult court for felony joyriding," he wrote in the ruling, "while those under 16 may not be prosecuted in adult court for rape, robbery, kidnapping, and murder." 

Two weeks ago, at the Indio Juvenile Courthouse, Judge Elizabeth Tucker ruled Hall and Torres will be resentenced to time in California's Division of Juvenile Justice rather than the state's prison system, according to the article. Her decision is per the new juvenile sentencing law.

Time will tell how the Supreme Court decides on this controversial bill. Inmates like Tucker and Hall may not walk out of the woods yet. We will continue to follow this remarkable story as it develops.

Orange County Juvenile Justice Attorney

If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges or school expulsion, then please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh. With experience as a prosecutor and defense lawyer, attorney Walsh has a unique understanding of the juvenile justice system. She has the experience and know-how to advocate for your family successfully. We invite you to reach out today for a free consultation. (714) 619-9355