California Legislature Approves Juvenile Justice Bills to Update Miranda Rights, Allow Parole for Youthful Offenders

September 15, 2017

Sending six #EquityAndJustice bills to Governor Brown

SACRAMENTO – Just weeks after the artist and musician Common held a free concert outside the State Capitol for 25,000 people and met with legislators to push for common sense justice reform, the California Legislature approved two long-overdue juvenile justice bills.

Senate Bills 394 and 395 are part of the #EquityAndJustice bill package of bills jointly authored by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) to promote prevention, rehabilitation and maintaining family cohesion.

A video with Common posted on Senator Lara’s Facebook page has received more than 35,000 views. In the video, Common tells a group of formerly incarcerated youth and advocates in Senator Lara’s office, “We care about those that are incarcerated, and we care about our young people that we don’t want to end up being put in prison.”

“Hearing the stories of young people who confessed to crimes they didn’t commit is heartbreaking and should be a wake-up call for our whole justice system,” said Senator Lara. “Senate Bill 395 protects children and families from the tragedy of false confession and brings our 50-year-old Miranda rights into the 21st century. Young people can take responsibility for their actions and having legal counsel will ensure they understand their rights and uphold our constitutional values in the process.”

“We need to update our laws for young people in custodial interrogations as well as for those who have committed crimes,” said Senator Mitchell. “California’s laws are still stuck in the past when our courts routinely sentenced young people to life without parole and routinely took away all hope of redemption. We know better now, and these bills are part of our movement toward equity and justice.”

Senate Bill 394 allows young people sentenced to life without parole to have a parole hearing after 25 years, complying with a recent U.S. Supreme Court case.

Senate Bill 395 will require young people age 15 and younger to consult with legal counsel before waiving their Miranda rights in a police interrogation. It passed the Senate in May with bipartisan support.

Research shows that young people are much more likely to confess to crimes they didn’t commit, and they are less likely to understand their constitutional rights than adults.

Jerome Dixon is one of those young people when he was arrested at age 17 and interrogated for 25 hours. “On the 25th hour I was nothing more but an empty shell of a child, and I caved in and told them what they wanted to hear,” he told KQED radio. He was recently released after 21 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.

Senate Bill 395 is co-sponsored by Human Rights Watch, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Silicon Valley De-Bug, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, and the National Center for Youth Law and has support from the California State PTA, Compton Unified School District, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and nearly 30 civil rights and juvenile justice organizations.

The six bills in the #EquityAndJustice package are:

  • SB 180 – Drug Sentence Enhancements
    This reform measure seeks to put greater emphasis on prevention, rehabilitation and maintaining family cohesion by reducing sentence enhancements for certain low level, nonviolent drug offenses. Status: Passed by Legislature and awaiting action by Governor Brown.
  • SB 190 – Ending Juvenile Fees
    Puts an end to innocent defendants being required to reimburse the courts for the cost of appointed counsel by specifying that this requirement may only be imposed in cases where the defendant is ultimately convicted of a crime. Status: Passed by Legislature and awaiting action by Governor Brown.
  • SB 355 - No Court Fees for the Innocent
    This provides that only those who are convicted of a crime are required to reimburse the courts for legal counsel fees. Status: Governor Brown signed into law on July 10.
  • SB 393 – Sealing of Arrest Records
    This bill would seal arrest records and remove barriers to employment for those arrested but not convicted of a crime. Status: Passed by Legislature and awaiting action by Governor Brown.
  • SB 394 – Juveniles Life Without the Possibility of Parole
    This measure would bring California into compliance with Montgomery v. Louisiana decision that juveniles cannot be sentenced to Life Without Parole. Status: Passed by Legislature and awaiting action by Governor Brown.
  • SB 395 – Miranda Rights for Youth
    This proposal would require those age 15 and under to consult with legal counsel before they waive their constitutional rights in interrogations with police. Status: Passed by Legislature and awaiting action by Governor Brown.

Sen. Lara is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and was first elected to the Legislature in 2010. He represents nearly 1 million residents of Senate District 33, which includes Long Beach and the Southeast Los Angeles cities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Lakewood, Lynwood, Maywood, Paramount, Signal Hill, South Gate, and much of Los Angeles. More at www.senate.ca.gov/lara

Sen. Mitchell is chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee. A member of the Legislature for more than six years,  she represents nearly 1 million residents of Senate District 30, which includes Culver City and much of Los Angeles. See a map of Mitchell’s district that includes a demographic breakdown of its residents and more HERE. Learn more at www.senate.ca.gov/Mitchell

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