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Articles Posted in Juvenile Offenses

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Over the next few months, California’s juvenile justice system could undergo a number of important changes that would better protect minors facing criminal charges. Lawmakers have introduced eight bills that are designed to increase the minimum age for minors to face incarceration, provide additional constitutional protections, and prevent minors from facing life sentences without the possibility of parole.California-300x145

Here’s a look at some of the new proposed laws that could affect the California juvenile justice system:

Senate Bill 395 – The Right to Remain Silent and Have an Attorney Present

One of the biggest problems with the juvenile justice system is the number of false confessions made by minors. Minors are more prone to pressure and less likely to understand the consequences of confessing to a crime, and as a result, many juveniles are convicted of crimes they did not actually commit.

If passed, Senate Bill 395 will prohibit any minor charged with a crime from waiving their constitutional rights without first speaking to a juvenile criminal attorney. This means that a minor will no longer be able to waive the right to remain silent or have an attorney present during questioning until the minor first speaks to an attorney who can explain what it means to give up those rights.

Senate Bill 439 – Minimum Age of Prosecution

Currently, the law places any person under the age of 18 within the juvenile justice system. This means that children, no matter how young, can theoretically be placed in the juvenile system if they commit a crime. Senate Bill 439 proposes to change that by excluding children under the age of 12 from being placed in the juvenile court system.

Senate Bill 394 – No Life Sentence Without Possibility of Parole

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case called Miller v. Alabama. In that case, the Supreme Court declared that sentencing a minor under the age of 18 to a life sentence without the possibility of parole is a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids “cruel and unusual punishment.” SB 394 would bring California’s laws in line with that decision. Continue reading →

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child_arrested_minor_crimes_teen-300x200.jpgIf you’ve ever heard the term “juvenile hall,” you know there is a difference between adult criminal courts and the juvenile justice system. But what really is the difference? Don’t minors convicted of crimes just go to a separate jail for people 18 and under?

In the past, minors who committed crimes were often sent to juvenile correctional facilities. However, the California juvenile justice system is now using different methods to help treat juveniles rather than incarcerate them.

Why the Juvenile Justice System Needed Change

It was reported that 10,000 minors occupied California correctional facilities in 1996. Studies concluded that juvenile facilities subjected inhabitants to inhumane conditions and violence. In addition, juvenile offenders who were released from custody had high recidivism rates.

To combat this, California lawmakers used the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA) to establish funding for “programs that have proven effective in curbing crime among at-risk youths.”

By 2013, the number of minors in California correctional facilities had dropped to 700. So, what was different? Much of it was due to a change in how juvenile offenders were treated after entering the juvenile justice system. Due to the JJCPA, individual counties had a reliable source of funds to use on trying different methods for helping juvenile offenders.

Treatment Over Incarceration

Now that each county in California can receive funds to invest in programs for juvenile offenders, they are discovering that incarceration is not the best way to punish them. According to recent research, law enforcement agencies and county probation offices are using structured “evidence-based, cognitive restructuring” programs with a focus on social learning.

What exactly does that mean? Instead of simply holding juvenile offenders in custody and releasing them so that their criminal behavior can be re-triggered, the focus is on treating the youth so that they stop committing criminal acts. Continue reading →

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Every weekday, you send your children off to school, trusting that they will behave themselves, and if they misbehave, the school’s administration will notify you immediately.Policeman-Arresting-Teen-crimi-200x300.jpg

What you may not know is that in many cases when a minor is accused of committing a crime, the questioning of the minor begins long before his or her parents are notified of their child’s alleged wrongdoing. Does this violate a minor’s rights?

Juveniles Have Constitutional Rights

The U.S. Constitution and California law provide many of the same protections to minors that adults have when they are accused of committing a crime. Among these are procedural rights, such as the right to have advance notices of charges and the right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses.1 In addition, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable search and seizures also extends to minors.2

Most importantly, a minor has Miranda rights, which include the right to remain silent and the right to the presence of an attorney during questioning.3 Continue reading →

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Juvenile False ConfessionsFalse confessions are a serious problem in our criminal justice system, particularly for young people under 18 years old. According to The Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully accused individuals, between 2.3% and 5% of individuals in prison are actually innocent of the crime they were convicted of, and one-third of those people were between 14 and 22 years old when they were arrested.1

One of the main reasons for wrongful convictions is making a false confession or incriminating statement. In fact, 1 out of every 4 people who are wrongfully convicted and later exonerated falsely confessed to a crime they did not commit.2 Falsely incriminating yourself can have devastating effects on the outcome of your case, and false confessions make up 16% of all known wrongful convictions. Studies show that the younger you are, the more likely you are to admit to a crime you are innocent of.3

Why are Juveniles More Likely to Falsely Admit to a Crime?

According to research studies, adolescents and young adults are more susceptible to making false confessions. During a police interrogation, a minor may be induced to admit to a crime that he or she did not commit as a result of:

  • Duress (being in a stressful environment)
  • Coercion (the influence of police or other intimidating authorities)
  • Intoxication
  • Diminished capacity (being unaware of what is happening)
  • Mental impairment
  • Ignorance of the law
  • Fear of violence
  • Actual infliction of harm
  • Threats of harsh sentences, or
  • Misunderstanding the situation4

Continue reading →

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If your child consistently fails to attend school, he could be forced to wear a GPS tracking device to monitor his whereabouts. In a recent case, a California appeals court ruled that minors who are repeatedly truant from school can be ordered to wear a GPS monitoring device as a condition of probation pursuant to California Welfare and Institutions Code section 601.

What is Considered Truant?

Under Welfare and Institutions Code section 601, any minor who has “four or more truancies within one school year…is then within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, which may adjudge the minor to be a ward of the court.” Essentially, a minor can be considered a ward of the court if the minor skips at least four days in a school year or continually refuses to obey attendance orders outlined by school officials.

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Southern%20California%20Juvenile%20Criminal%20Defense%20Attorneys%20888-280-6839.jpgYou are a 17-year old high school student. After class, you are hanging out by the basketball court. You notice a freshman student listening to his iPod. You tell him to give you the iPod. When he refuses, you pin him to the ground, take his iPod, and leave the scene. Now you are being accused of felony robbery. Will you be charged as a minor or an adult? If confronted with this stressful situation, you should contact the Law Offices of Wallin & Klarich immediately.

When will I be tried in juvenile court?

Under California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 602(a), minors under the age of 18 are typically tried in juvenile court for most minor criminal offenses such as theft or vandalism. However, California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 602(b) creates certain exceptions to this rule for more serious offenses.

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When he was 17 years old, Andrew Moffett and an accomplice robbed a supermarket. The parties fled in a stolen car, but they crashed their vehicle and hid in nearby bushes. When police officers approached, Moffett’s accomplice shot at and killed one of the police officers. Both minors were captured; Moffett’s accomplice was tried and found guilty of first-degree murder, and Moffett was found guilty of first-degree murder under the felony murder rule. At sentencing, the judge indicated California Penal Code § 190.5 required the judge to sentence Moffett to life without parole (LWOP) unless certain limited circumstances were present. The judge found that no such circumstances were present, and he sentenced Moffet to life without the possibility of parole. Moffett appealed his sentence.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Miller vs. Alabama held that the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments,” forbids the mandatory sentencing of any juvenile to a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, regardless of the crime committed. (Miller v. Alabama (2012) 132 S.Ct. 2455, 2460.) California Penal Code § 190.5(b), which governs juvenile sentencing in first-degree murder cases, gives judges some discretion in sentencing; it declares that any defendant who was 16 or 17 years old at the time of committing an act of first degree murder “shall be confine[d] in the state prison for life without the possibility of parole or, at the discretion of the court, 25 years to life.” California courts have interpreted this provision to mean that, in juvenile first-degree murder cases, a life without parole sentence is generally mandatory, as “16- or 17-year-olds who commit [first-degree] murder must be sentenced to LWOP, unless the court, in its discretion, finds good reason to choose the less severe sentence of 25 years to life.” (People v. Guinn (1994) 28 Cal.App. 4th 1130, 1141-42.)

The Court of Appeals held that California’s first-degree murder sentencing system for juveniles violates the Eighth Amendment. The court held that “A presumption in favor of LWOP, such as that applied in this case, is contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of Miller.” The Court of Appeals remanded to the trial court for resentencing. Further, the Court of Appeals underlined that the defendant was convicted of felony murder and did not act to kill; the court instructed the sentencing judge to, on remand, “give appropriate weight to the fact that appellant was a non-killer convicted under the felony-murder rule.” In short, the Court of Appeals counseled the trial court to try again, and, this time, to likely sentence Moffett to a sentence less harsh than life without parole, i.e. 25 years to life.

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Wallin & Klarich’s experienced juvenile defense attorneys in Orange County inform you that in a victory for juveniles who commit crimes in our state, the California Supreme Court decided it was “cruel and unusual punishment” to convict a juvenile to a lengthy prison sentence without providing the juvenile with an opportunity to convince the court he should be given a parole date.

Currently the law in California allows juveniles who commit serious crimes to be sentenced to hundreds of years in prison. This means that they have no chance to ever be released from custody.

In this specific case, the accused was convicted of attempted murder of three rival gang members. He was sentenced to 110 years in prison. He would have to serve about 93.5 years in prison, which means a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

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As reported by the LA Times on January 25, 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional to sentence any juvenile tried as an adult who is under 18 to a life sentence behind bars with no chance to be released. The court’s majority (a 5-4 vote) found it to be a “cruel and unusual punishment” under the constitution because our society requires every judge to consider carefully a juvenile’s individual case before making such a decision.

This new ruling invalidates the laws of 28 states in the US that sentence to life imprisonment any individual who is tried as an adult and found guilty of certain serious crimes even if he/she is 14 years old.

This is a great victory for those that believe that juveniles have to be treated differently than adults. Many of these juveniles have been raised without parental supervision, and they come from a life of poverty and abuse. The highest court of our country, lead by the Justice Kennedy who wrote the opinion, decided that kids cannot be locked up for life with no hope of release without having a judge reviewing each case individually.

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M was juvenile attending high school in California who just went through a tough breakup with his ex-girlfriend, S. Following their breakup, M sent two text messages to S . in the first he threatened to come to school with a gun and kill half the school before committing suicide in front of S. In the other, he used expletives including “F___,” “B____”, and “C___”. M was charged with a violation of California Penal Code 653m which reads:

653m. (a) Every person who, with intent to annoy, telephones or makes contact by means of an electronic communication device with another and addresses to or about the other person any obscene language or addresses to the other person any threat to inflict injury to the person or property of the person addressed or any member of his or her family, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Nothing in this subdivision shall apply to telephone calls or electronic contacts made in good faith.

At M’s trial in juvenile court S testified that the words were commonly used at their high school and that she was not offended by the language. Another student testified that the above language was commonly used by their peer group. The court sustained the petition which is akin to a finding of guilt.

About Wallin & Klarich

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.