Fights to end the School-to-Prison pipeline

Posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2020 at 7:18 am    

The term ‘School to Prison Pipeline,’ also known as ‘Cradle to Prison Pipeline’ describes the disproportionate impact of historical education policies, such as zero tolerance, on people of color and vulnerable populations. The effect of this is more students being sent to juvenile detention centers with an inevitable increase in racial inequality. Typically, lower income schools use stricter behavior management systems that implement immediate punishment, instead of using positive reinforcement and other positive behavioral strategies. In lieu of this, some steps have been made in the right direction by politicians, such as Bernie Sanders and Ayanna Pressley, who are joining the fight to end School-to-Prison pipelines. Addressing and amending this issue will set in motion a long overdue fight to reach equality in the United States.

According to an article written on neaToday, “In 2010, more than 3 million students were suspended from school, aka double the level of suspensions in the 1970s. Meanwhile, more than a quarter-million were “referred” to police officers for misdemeanor tickets, very often for offenses that once would have elicited a stern talking-to.” NEA shares another reason that students are more likely to go to Juvenile Detention Centers if they live in low-income areas is because there are less school resources and more budget cuts. This results in less educational staff monitoring at any given moment, and instead filling those gaps with school police officers. In-school officers are constantly monitoring the ongoings of students in a more strict manner, which leads to an increase of student punishments.

Specifically, Black students represent 15% of public school students, yet they represent 31% of all students referred to law enforcement, and other students of color are also disproportionately arrested in schools (specifically Native American, and LatinX). When these students are kicked out of school they are left with nowhere to go and no community to hold on to. Often, many students get involved in illegal activity and drugs and alcohol due to their lack of direction and school time.

This trend is reflected across multiple underrepresented groups. People with disabilities face harsher punishments than their able-bodied counterparts, especially in affluent schools, according to Huffington Post. “In affluent schools, students with disabilities are overrepresented among students who receive suspensions by 20 points, while in low-income schools, they are overrepresented by nearly 11 points.” This can cause issues because studies show that students who are suspended at least once during their secondary education are more likely to drop out of school, and more likely to enter the criminal justice system. However, some critics argue that less suspensions means more dangerous and disruptive students in the classroom, which can pose a threat to other students and staff members.

As the presidential election of 2020 has begun to ramp up, various left-leaning candidates have spoken up about the need to change the school to prison pipeline trajectory. According to a Buzzfeed article, both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have learned about the injustices in the school systems, primarily for students of colors, and have agreed to provide more resources to low-income schools, if elected.

Another politician, Ayanna Pressley, a United States Representative for Massachusetts’ 7th district (including the city of Boston), and the first black woman elected to congress from Massachusetts, has spoken up about ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline in the HuffPost. Pressley has specifically focused her activism on young black girls. HuffPost shares that black girls are “five times more likely to be suspended than white girls, according to a 2017 report from the National Women’s Law Center, which used data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights from 2013-2014.”

In December 2019, Pressley announced criminal justice proposals, which included the Ending PUSHOUT Act, aiming to stop discriminatory punishment in schools, specifically for black and brown students. The Ending PUSHOUT Act, which stands for Punitive, Unfair, School-Based Harm, that is Overt and Unresponsive to Trauma, would bring in money to provide teachers with implicit bias training, hire more school counselors and social workers, and change school discipline regulations based on community input. In order to be eligible for the program, schools have to decrease suspensions and expulsions, and ban corporal punishment for all students. Pressley is one of the first politicians, after President Obama, to take concrete steps towards fighting the School to Prison Pipeline that currently exists in our society and causes extreme disadvantage to students of color.

As Pressley articulately stated, “we must work in partnership with communities to develop holistic solutions that center the lived experiences of girls of color who have been most impacted by cruel and discriminatory school policies and practices.” Especially as President Trump decreases regulations already in place to help the most at-risk populations, we must fight to end the School-to-Prison Pipeline and provide all students with equitable opportunities. This is one necessary action to reach the goal of facing inequality in the United States and prevent unnecessary crowding in juvenile detention centers with innocent youth.


Criminal Appeals: Can I Appeal a Juvenile Verdict?

Posted on Thursday, February 6th, 2020 at 8:36 am    

California has an alternative criminal justice system for minors. While the proceedings still take place in court, they are not the same as in a criminal trial.

Juveniles charged with crimes must go through several hearings. The last of these hearings is called a disposition hearing. That is when the judge makes the final decision about a juvenile’s fate. It’s a lot like the sentencing phase of a criminal trial.

Similar adults, a juvenile can appeal this final decision.

For more information about appealing a juvenile verdict, call Spolin Law P.C. today at (310) 424-5816 for a free consultation. You can also reach out online.

When Should Juveniles Appeal?

Since the juvenile justice system’s goal is rehabilitation rather than punishment, juvenile offenders do not have the same incentives to appeal.

However, there are scenarios when a judge’s disposition should be reversed. If the young offender is innocent, if their rights were violated, or if the court order is unacceptable, a criminal appeals lawyer can and should appeal the judge’s decision.

The Juvenile Appeals Process

Before filing a formal appeal in a juvenile case, it’s necessary to outline the different stages of the juvenile criminal justice process. At each stage, there are opportunities to contest. And in some cases, ask for a new hearing on certain issues.

The California juvenile justice process involves the following:

Intake

When a minor is arrested, their fate is initially decided by a probation officer. Depending on the crimes’ severity, a juvenile may simply be released on probation. The officer may also order the youth to be detained and recommend that the District Attorney (DA) file formal charges.

Detention Hearing

When the minor his detained, or when the DA files criminal charges, a hearing will determine whether detention should continue, or if the juvenile should be detained until the next hearing.

At this stage, a Los Angeles juvenile defense lawyer can contest the the DA’s petition and present evidence. If they are unsatisfied with the result, they can request a new hearing.

Fitness Hearing

In some cases, the DA may request that the juvenile be tried as an adult. For very serious crimes, there is no need for a fitness hearing because adult charges are mandatory.

During this hearing, the DA will present evidence as to why the minor should be treated as an adult. Of course, the defense can argue why the case should stay in the juvenile system. This is an extremely important stage of the process because appealing this decision is very difficult.

Jurisdiction Hearing

If the case stays within the juvenile system, the next stage is the jurisdiction hearing. Like in a criminal trial, this hearing’s purpose is to determine what actually happened. Both sides are allowed to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses. However, the facts will not be decided by a jury. If the judge determines that the available evidence points to the juvenile’s guilt, the case will move to the next stage.

Disposition Hearing

During this part of the process, the focus is not only on how to punish a juvenile but also on how to treat or rehabilitate them. Another important difference is that a judge can decide to “set aside” or cancel the decision about jurisdiction. In other words, the verdict can be canceled if their legal team is successful at this stage. If not, the judge will determine the conditions of detention and probation.

How Can I Appeal My Child’s Verdict?

There are three ways to appeal a juvenile case. First, and while it’s not a formal appeal, your lawyer should try to get a new hearing if the judge rules against your child at the detention phase.

Second, if the judge rules that your child should be treated like an adult, you may file a writ with the Court of Appeals. This isn’t a formal appeal either, but it can delay the process and keep the case in the juvenile system.

Third, you can file an official appeal within 60 days of the disposition hearing. As with a criminal case, your appeal must show that a legal mistake hurt your son’s or daughter’s case.

There are many possible arguments to make in favor of an appeal. A lawyer may argue that evidence was improperly included or rejected, or that the authorities violated your child’s rights at any point during the process.

A California Juvenile Lawyer Can Help

When a minor faces criminal charges, their future hangs in the balance. With so much at stake, these cases require quick, thorough, and aggressive action from the defense.

If you or a loved one received a bad result after a juvenile disposition hearing, you must act fast if you want to appeal.

Call Spolin Law P.C. today at (310) 424-5816, or reach out online for help appealing a juvenile criminal verdict.


Innocent Spolin Law Client Charged with Murder Walks Free After All Charges Dropped

Posted on Friday, July 19th, 2019 at 8:10 am    

This past Tuesday shortly before noon a Spolin Law client charged with murder walked free after a judge dismissed the charges against him.

The client—a high school senior—had been charged with murder based on his alleged participation in a street racing contest where another driver had struck and killed a pedestrian. The client had not in fact been participating in any street racing and was not the driver who struck the pedestrian. The case was heard by Judge William Wood of the San Diego County Superior Court, Juvenile Division. The client’s family had hired Spolin Law P.C. to write the motion to dismiss the case and had also hired attorney Carl Bradley Patton to represent the client in the “jurisdiction hearing” that resulted in the dismissal.

Spolin Law’s motion to dismiss argued that all charges against the client should be dismissed and that the prosecution had not in fact presented evidence showing the client’s participation in a car racing contest. In support of this argument, the motion cited numerous prior cases with similar fact patterns and highlighted that convictions in other courts for the same crime were not analogous; other cases had all involved significantly more evidence of actual racing. The arguments were enough to persuade the Superior Court judge to drop all charges—including the murder charge—and dismiss the case.

When the ruling was announced, a wave of relief swept through the client’s family seated in the courtroom. The client himself let out a deep sigh of relief and, with tears in his eyes, embraced his father and other family members who were in the court. At that moment he was a free man, and he walked out of the courthouse with his family moments later. He will now be able to return to his life, which will include completing high school, applying to colleges, playing sports, and being with his family.

For more information about Spolin Law P.C. and how our attorneys may be able to help on a criminal case, feel free to contact us at (310) 424-5816.


When May My Child’s California Juvenile Case Be Transferred to Adult Court?

Posted on Tuesday, September 25th, 2018 at 8:17 am    

Generally speaking, a minor (someone under the age of 18) is tried in a juvenile court. The California law provides for certain situations in which minors can be tried as an adult. California allows children who are least 14 years of age to face adult charges for various offenses. If a prosecutor determines the case is serious enough, they can file it in an adult court. For this to happen, the prosecutor must file a petition for a fitness hearing.

A dedicated juvenile defense lawyer will make your child’s journey through the penal system easier. For help with a California juvenile case in Los Angeles, reach out to an attorney at Spolin Law P.C.. We have the experience necessary to make sure that your son or daughter is treated fairly after accusations against them surface. Schedule your free consultation using the online form, or by calling (310) 424-5816 today.

A Fitness Hearing Decides Juvenile Case Transfers

In order to transfer your juvenile’s case to an adult court, the prosecutor must file a motion to petition for a fitness hearing. At this hearing, the judge will determine whether or not your child is “fit” for the juvenile court system. To do this, they analyze the likelihood that your son or daughter can be rehabilitated. In considering this, the court examines the following five factors:

  • The criminal sophistication of your son or daughter
  • Whether rehabilitation is possible prior to your child turning 18
  • Your son or daughter’s previous delinquent history
  • The success or failure of the juvenile court to previously rehabilitate your child
  • The circumstances and seriousness of the offense committed.

The prosecutor must give you at least five days notice of a fitness hearing. If based on these factors, the judge decided your child unlikely to be rehabilitated, they will transfer your child’s case to an adult court. Once transferred, your son or daughter will be subject to normal court proceedings.

To learn more about fitness hearings, contact a juvenile defense lawyer at our firm right away.

Only Certain Situations Permit a Transfer to Adult Court

The criteria for moving a California juvenile case to adult court are slightly different than originally trying your child as an adult. A prosecutor may only file a petition for a fitness hearing if your child has been accused of committing a felony and is at least 16-years-old. If your child is at least 14-years-old, their case may be transferred if their offense is included in Section 707(b) of California’s Welfare & Institutions Code.

Potential Penalties a Juvenile May Face in Adult Court

In juvenile court, the worst sentence a minor can receive is incarceration in the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). If tried in adult court, however, your son or daughter can face almost any penalty an adult would. This includes life in prison without the possibility of parole. The only exception is that minors may not face the death penalty.

Appealing the Transfer of a Juvenile Case

If your son or daughter loses their fitness hearing, they may appeal the decision. The petition to appeal must be filed no more than 20 days after arraignment on the charges that prompted the fitness hearing.

Speak to an Attorney About Your Child’s California Juvenile Case Today

Talking to a lawyer knowledgeable in juvenile law is one of the best ways to help your child. From defense to appeal, Spolin Law P.C. will make sure your minor presents the best argument possible so that their case remains in juvenile court. To schedule your free consultation with a Los Angeles juvenile defense attorney, reach out online or call (310) 424-5816.


Minor Charged With Homicide Found “Fit” for Juvenile Court

Posted on Friday, June 2nd, 2017 at 12:01 pm    

After an approximately two-week court hearing in Inglewood Juvenile Courthouse, a 17-year-old Spolin Law P.C. client facing homicide charges has been found “fit” to remain in juvenile court. While she could have faced life in prison in adult court, in juvenile court her maximum period of confinement is now eight years.

When a minor is charged with a crime, the prosecutor may petition the juvenile court to transfer the case to adult court. The vast majority of minors facing homicide charges end up transferred to adult court, where a finding of guilt routinely results in a lifetime behind bars. Minors kept in juvenile court are confined in Juvenile Hall, which must release them by the age of 25. While adult court is focused on retribution and punishment, juvenile court focuses on rehabilitation, and the educational and extracurricular activities offered in Juvenile Hall reflect this.

The minor was represented by Aaron Spolin throughout the proceeding. Further details of the case and applicable legal defenses cannot be disclosed due to the strict confidentiality rules associated with juvenile court. After the minor is arraigned in the juvenile court, the case will proceed to the pre-trial phase.

Talk to a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, has a track record of success handling violent crime cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from Aaron today, please call this number: (310) 424-5816.