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New legislation is signed to benefit juvenile offenders

An ongoing discussion in the Visalia, California, (Tulare and Kings counties, Central California) area is how crimes committed by minors should be handled. Attorneys handling criminal defense cases that involve minors often address the contention that crimes committed by minors should be handled. Recently, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that will ease punishment and fines for juvenile offenders.

He did so with the encouragement of a coalition of criminal justice groups, which assembled former youth offenders and celebrities in support of the legislation, which is comprised of nine bills. As a set, the bills are intended to ease punishment for people who committed crimes when they were minors. The legislation will increase parole opportunities as well, let courts seal some juvenile records, and limit the fees charged by counties to families who have children in juvenile detention facilities.

Now, parents and other legal guardians will not be legally liable for the cost of food, shelter and drug tests for sons and daughters who are in juvenile facilities. Those payments have long been difficult to collect from parents.

Part of the motivation for the legislation was the belief that adolescent minds are not mature. Another part of the motivation for the legislation was concern that Latino, Black and low-income children are disproportionately affected by fines and court practices. State senators, including the sponsors of the legislation, wanted to make sure that poor children and children of color did not wind up victims of the juvenile justice system.

Instead, the state senators and the governor seek to set the young people who have gone awry on a better path, and hope that the recently-signed legislation will help to achieve that. Parents who have minor sons and daughters charged with criminal offenses should confer with their attorneys about how this legislation affects their case, and what options it makes available to them.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Gov. Jerry Brown signs legislation to ease punishment, criminal fines for juvenile offenders," Jazmine Ulloa, Oct. 11, 2017

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