Despite objections from some prosecutors and law enforcement organizations, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a package of legislative measures earlier this month that will have an effect on the criminal justice system for both adults and juveniles in the states. In total, Governor Brown signed nine different bills, many of which are designed to increase parole opportunities and reduce prison sentences for those who committed crimes in their youth. The other bills increase protections for juvenile suspects and give judges more discretion over additional penalties in certain situations.
Guaranteed Chances for Parole
One of the measures signed by Governor Brown was Senate Bill 394 (SB 394), a bill that was drafted in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year. The Supreme Court decided in Montgomery v. Louisiana that a previous ruling that forbids mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles should be applied retroactively. According to the Supreme Court’s ruling, states may still apply a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole to juveniles, as long as individualized attention is given to the possibility that young people different from adults and have a higher capacity for growth and rehabilitation. With the enactment of SB 394, however, nearly 300 inmates in California who were sentenced to life in prison without parole for crimes committed as juveniles will now have the opportunity for parole after 25 years of incarceration.
Assembly Bill 1308 (AB 1308) was also signed with the intent of increasing young offenders’ chances for early release. In 2013, California created a specialized parole program for young inmates through age 22. The new law extends eligibility for that program to offenders under the age of 26.
Juvenile Rights to an Attorney
Until now, juvenile suspects had the same rights as any criminal suspect regarding having a lawyer present during questioning subsequent to an arrest. They also had the same ability to waive those rights, often without knowing what they were giving up by waiving their rights to an attorney. With Governor Brown signing Senate Bill 395, suspects aged 15 and under must be given the opportunity to speak with an attorney before they can be questioned by police.
Juveniles under 18 are much more likely than adults to confess to crimes they did not commit, according to proponents of the legislation. The new law is expected to help combat false confessions among teens.
We Can Help
If you have questions about any of the new laws and how they may affect you or your child, contact an experienced San Jose juvenile defense attorney. Call 408-277-0377 to schedule a confidential consultation with Wesley J. Schroeder, Attorney at Law, today.