How juveniles are treated in the justice system has long been a topic of debate. In the latest development, California will be joining 19 other states in ending life sentences for children and teens.

New Laws Give Juveniles a Chance

Juveniles that face sentencing early on in their young lives often find themselves rotating through the revolving door that is the criminal justice system. But now that might be changing. New state laws will give juveniles more opportunities and fewer punishments, in hopes that juveniles will be rehabbed instead of institutionalized.

20-year-old Michael Rizo knows the system far too well. “I would run away, get another warrant, go on the run. Go back and forth,” said Rizo. Rizo spent a decade of his life in and out of juvenile hall for numerous theft charges. He wanted the cycle to stop.

“It’s just, talking to your mom through a window when you want to hold your mom, that tears you apart,” he said. He took a bad situation and decided to change it. Alongside state Sen. Holly Mitchell (D- Los Angeles), Rizo lobbied for change. Their arguments were based on studies showing that teenage brains have not yet fully matured, thus making it harder for them to gauge right and wrong.

“The young people who came and testified in committee, their stories were no different from yours or mine. They found themselves in the foster system. Some of them have parents in the criminal justice system,” said Mitchell.

“We’re clear that these kids at those critical teenage years are not adults. And so even those who get caught up in the justice system-we have to view with that same lens,” she said.
New Laws

According to new laws, anyone sentenced to a life sentence as a minor will now become eligible for a parole hearing after serving 25 years. For 300 people currently serving time, that means they now have a chance at parole.

Another introduced law allows the courts to seal some juvenile records as well as limit fees that local jurisdictions currently charge families with kids behind bars.

“People deserve second chances,” Rizo said.

Juvenile Offenses

If you have a teen, you might want to consider at least knowing of a good criminal defense lawyer. Sounds a little crazy, right? Here’s why it might not be.

It’s hard to believe that your little angel could be responsible for a crime, but regardless of how hard you’ve tried to raise them well, kids will always get into trouble. Usually it’s nothing to worry about – maybe problems with Algebra, or talking during class. But when that trouble turns into bigger problems, and it does happen, you’ll want to be prepared.

Stories of bullying, fighting, and even death involving teenagers flash across our TV screens every day. How can a teen go from living a normal life to all of a sudden being charged with a crime? It can happen in the blink of an eye, a text message, or in a Facebook post.

That’s why Lisa Green, author of On Your Case: A Compassionate (and Only Slightly Bossy) Legal Guide for Every Stage of a Woman’s Life, believes every parent of a teen should know of a criminal defense lawyer.

Criminal Defense Lawyer

A criminal defense lawyer handles a variety of cases including:

  • DUI
  • Drug Charges
  • White Collar Crimes
  • Violent Crimes
  • Sex Crimes
  • Theft Offenses

Hiring a lawyer is your best bet in defending yourself against criminal charges such as this one. A criminal defense lawyer will give you guidance on the strengths and weaknesses of your case and your specific risks of conviction and punishment. They will help to explain the legal system and the procedures involved. And when the allegations are against your son or daughter, a criminal defense lawyer can be your first line of defense.

Green, who also works as a lawyer believes that every parent should know of a criminal defense lawyer. Not having one is “the unrecognized area that parents, particularly parents of teens, miss all the time. So many of our friends have armies of tutors, extracurricular activities, all sorts of angles covered … but when it comes to the law, there’s this black hole.”

Ways to Protect Your Child

There are some things you can do to protect your child and his or her rights. First, review any codes of conduct that are provided by their school. A lot of times parents are unaware of the fact that a school has certain laws they must abide by, including searching personal property. A student is allowed to ask if they can call their Mom or Dad before a search is conducted.

“They need to have reasonable suspicion that something’s wrong,” said Green. She advises that parents talk to their teens about what’s appropriate behavior, as well as what’s appropriate action, and what’s not appropriate when it comes to handling a request like this. Essentially, parents need to act as their child’s first legal advocate. This is how a teen should handle such a request:”If you’re asked, as a child, for a locker search, to open a phone, to open a laptop, if it’s your property, pause and ask if you could call Mom and Dad,” she said. “We can act whether we’re lawyers or not as that first line of defense.”

Parents Responsible for Crimes

If your child commits a crime, you should know that as a parent you can face charges.
“I am not advocating that kids should be absolved of responsibility. If a kid does something wrong, if they broke the law, they ought to be punished appropriately by it. But we also live in a society where we have legal rights, and I want parents to know that they should be aware of what those are so they can help their child use better judgment.”

Each state has its own laws regarding the legal responsibility of parents and legal guardians for criminal acts committed by minors in their charge. Many of these laws were enacted on the assumption that when a minor commits a crime it is because their parents have failed to exercise proper control and oversight.

California Laws

California’s parental responsibility laws place potential liability on parents and legal guardians when a minor causes harm to a person or causes damage to property including car accidents and other acts.

Willful Misconduct

A parent is liable for a minor’s “Willful Misconduct” in California under the California Civil Code section 1714.1, which states: “Any act of willful misconduct of a minor that results in injury or death to another person, or in any injury to the property of another, shall be imputed to the parent or guardian having custody and control of the minor for all purposes of civil damages.”

“Willful Misconduct” means that a minor did something on purpose, with intent.

The statute states that the custodial parent or guardian is jointly liable, along with the minor, for any damages resulting from the minor’s willful misconduct, for an amount not to exceed $25,000 for each wrongful act.

If a person is injured as the result of the minor’s “willful misconduct”, the $25,000 limit can include compensation for medical treatment and other injury-related expenses. It cannot include compensation for non-economic damages like pain and suffering.

If the minor’s misconduct involves “defacement of property of another with paint or a similar substance,” the limit of the parent or guardian’s joint liable is still $25,000.

Working with a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Once you and your attorney have discussed the specifics of the allegations that you or your child are facing, you will be informed about the strengths and weaknesses of your case, including the risks of conviction and punishment that you face. A defense attorney will be able to negotiate a plea deal or decide to move forward with a trial, while constantly working to ensure your best interests.

Our ability to find the right approach in your situation can make the decisive difference in adult or juvenile criminal charges such as:

  • Violent crimes such as assault or vehicular homicide
  • Sex crimes
  • Drug offenses
  • Alcohol offenses from minor in possession or underage drinking to DUI
  • Fake ID or identity theft
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Property crimes from vandalism to auto theft or burglary

We advise and represent high school and college students on criminal charges both on and off campus, and we also work closely with parents to make sure that our approach is best suited for your family’s needs.

The criminal defense lawyers at Daniel Perlman Law in Los Angeles will put our experience to work for you. We believe every defendant has the right to a zealous defense. We offer free initial consultations and will usually quote a flat fee that will cover all the services necessary for your case, including trial. To schedule a free consultation with one of our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers, call 877-887-4541 or contact us by e-mail.

Daniel R. Perlman, Esq.
Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman