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.
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 →