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Juveniles not always well served by the juvenile justice system

While Pleasanton is more than 300 miles away from Los Angeles County, both vicinities are in California and share similar concerns when it comes to our criminal law system.  And a study from Loyola Law School suggests that children may not be well served by that county's juvenile public defense system.

In April 2012, one 14-year-old was arrested on two counts of attempted murder.  While he had no prior criminal record and did not appear to be aware that an older co-defendant was going to shoot another individual, he nevertheless was tried as an adult and was facing a prison sentence of 90 years.  This young person's case was only allowed to be heard in juvenile court after an appeal.

While according to a U.S. Supreme Court decision juveniles are supposed to be provided with adequate legal representation, this still appears to be a problem for juveniles that are arrested. In LA County the problem is said to be compounded due to the low fee that contract attorneys are paid to represent these young people.

A panel attorney who is representing a juvenile in a murder case through this county's system may be paid as little as $300 to $350. Advocates suggest that such a system can lead to inadequate representation. As attorneys are paid the same if they plea the case at the initial hearing as opposed to representing the young person through an extended trial, there appears to be little incentive for these attorneys to go the extra mile in defending the youth.

Juvenile crimes are generally handled in a different manner than adult crimes. Though certain juveniles are tried as adults, the consequences of sentences handed down should a conviction take place can be devastating to that young person and his or her family. Therefore attorneys representing these youth need to have a great deal of experience and knowledge concerning the juvenile justice system.

 

Source: Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, "Experts Concerned that LA County's Juvenile Public Defense System Depriving Indigent Youth of Adequate Counsel," Gary Cohn, March 24, 2014

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