Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Appeals Court Upholds SB 1391

SB 1391
In May, we wrote about the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco rejecting Solano County’s challenge to Senate Bill 1391. At the time, we pointed out that California counties would likely continue to take issue with this controversial piece of legislation.

For those who don’t know, SB 1391 bars prosecutors from trying 14- and 15-year-olds as adults. The bill is part of a broad effort across the state to place a greater emphasis on rehabilitation for young people on the wrong side of the law.

Last week, advocates of SB 1391 received another victory when a state appeals court in Sacramento ruled the law is constitutional, The Sacramento Bee reports. The bill is meant to serve as an extension of the reforms laid out in 2016’s Proposition 57.

Naturally, many prosecutors across the state are unhappy with last Wednesday’s ruling. District attorneys and victim families are some of SB 1391’s staunchest opponents.

Next Stop, The California Supreme Court


“Senate Bill 1391 does not conflict with Proposition 57, but advances its stated intent and purpose to reduce the number of youths to be tried in adult court, reduce the number of incarcerated persons in state prisons, and emphasize rehabilitation for juveniles,” the appellate court wrote.

The decisions, in San Francisco last month and in Sacramento a week ago, to support the new legislation all but guarantees that the California Supreme Court will take up the matter. Much is at stake for both young defendants and the families who would like to see justice for their loved ones. 

“We have received the Court of Appeal’s decision and we are considering the option of further appellate relief,” said Sacramento County Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Rod Norgaard. 

Before Prop. 57, prosecutors were permitted to charge 14- and 15-year-olds as adults in severe cases. Being tried in adult criminal court and being found guilty carries much longer sentences than what is handed down in juvenile court. SB 1391 prevents moving youths under 16 to adult court.

At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we will continue to follow this remarkable story as it develops.

Southern California Juvenile Defense Attorney


Attorney Katie Walsh’s experience, both as a former prosecutor and juvenile defense attorney, makes her uniquely equipped to advocate for your loved one. Please contact us today for a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help your family. (714) 619-9355

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

School Suspension Rates in Rural California

school suspension
The Bureau of Children’s Justice, a division of the state Attorney General’s Office, is tasked with protecting at-risk children. There are laws which are meant to protect vulnerable young people; it’s the Bureau’s job to enforce such protections. However, children fall through the cracks time and time again.

California school districts have a long history of suspending and expelling minorities and intellectually disabled children. Despite recent efforts to work with children who are having problems in school before resorting to punitive measures, many youths are suspended at alarming rates.

Black and Latino children are suspended and expelled at exceedingly higher rates than white kids in many school districts. This is true even when children of color make up only a slight fraction of the student body. Whether we are looking at high school or elementary school, the data does not lie—minorities bear the brunt of the discipline meted out by faculty.

An investigation is underway to determine why a rural California school district is suspending students at an exponentially higher rate than the statewide average, EdSource reports. A report shows that Butte County’s Oroville City Elementary School District’s suspension rate is three times higher than average in California.

Alarming Suspension Rates in California


Oroville City (pop. 229,294), just north of Sacramento, is the seat of Butte County. Oroville City Elementary suspended 12 percent of its students during the 2017-18 school year, according to the article. However, only four (4) percent of students in public schools were suspended, at least once, across the entire state.

Although black students make up only three percent of the district’s enrollment, they are suspended far more often than their white classmates. An EdSource analysis of the data shows that black students were suspended 70 percent more often than their white students at Oroville City Elementary. Moreover, black kids were suspended two times more often as white children at Ishi Hills Middle School.

During the 2016-17 school year, students in the district were out of school more often due to suspension than virtually all other students in the state, according to the UCLA Center for Civil Rights Remedies.

“I’m glad the attorney general is paying attention to both the high rates and large racial disparities,” said Daniel Losen, the director of the UCLA center and author of the organization’s suspension report. “There is a lot districts can do to lower suspension rates without jeopardizing the learning environment.” 

The statistics are troubling for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that laws prohibit suspending K-3 students for being disruptive. Senate Bill 419 was introduced this year to expand those protections to grades 4 to 8. Whenever young people are not in a classroom, they are put at significant risk of getting into more trouble. The school-to-prison pipeline begins with suspension and expulsion.

Orange County School Discipline Attorney


If your child is facing expulsion from his or her school, then it is vital that you turn to an expert for guidance. Former prosecutor Katie Walsh has an extensive amount of experience advocating for young people who face problems at school. Please contact us today to learn how Attorney Walsh can help your child with their school expulsion hearing.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Juvenile Justice by the Numbers

Juvenile Justice
In 1996, the California Division of Juvenile Justice, the state’s youth correctional system, housed over 10,000 children and young adults (ages 12 to 25), according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

Today, we see a very different picture of juvenile justice in the Golden State. Thanks to several criminal justice reforms and the tireless of countless individuals, rehabilitation is now California’s watchword.

The number of young people housed in juvenile detention centers had fallen to 627, as of June 2018, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. While most people will find this news uplifting, lawmakers still have far to go in ensuring that all children are afforded the same benefits.

Young African Americans and Latinos are over-represented in both arms of the criminal justice system—juvenile and adult. Of the 71,923 juvenile arrests in 2015, black and Latino youths made up 88% of those tried as adults, according to a study from the California Department of Justice.

On numerous occasions, we have written about Proposition 57 on this blog. The legislation took power to try children as adults away from prosecutors in 2016. However, black and Latino youths are still tried as adults at the same rate.

Probation Helps and Hurts Young People


While fewer young people are locked up, there are more than 39,000 youth on probation in California, according to the article. Probation gives kids more options, but the likelihood of violating terms is high. Violations often result in incarceration.

“Probation is a hidden secret of the juvenile justice system,” said Nate Balis, Director of the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group for The Annie E. Casey Foundation. “The proportion of kids put in probation remains the same year after year. It is quite similar to what it looked like with the overall approach in the 1990s. One thing to change is dramatically narrowing who ends up on probation. Kids with first offenses like shoplifting can end up on probation. We must be more discerning and divert far more youth from juvenile justice system.” 

Probation can be successful if young people are supported along the way. Expecting teenagers to fall in line after an arrest is wishful if they lack the resources to make necessary changes. We have to remember that teenagers who get in trouble with the law rarely come from stable homes. Bad influences are aplenty inside the house and out.

Reforms are only beneficial when they are in tandem with investments in the community. Diversion programs can give young people the tools to get back on track, stay in school, and avoid incarceration down the road.

California Juvenile Defense Attorney


Parents with a son or daughter facing legal trouble or school expulsion can benefit from seeking the help of juvenile defense expert. Having an experienced advocate in your family’s corner can pay off significantly.

Please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh for a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help you overcome your legal challenges.