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Law Office of Ronald G. Brower Blog

 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

California Moves to Ban The Box

criminal record
About a year ago, almost to the day, we wrote about an important subject relevant to people with a criminal record. Specifically, regarding one’s ability to find employment with a less than ideal criminal history. It is no secret that people with felonies in their past will not even be considered for hiring by employers in certain fields. In other words, getting one’s foot in the door to be considered for the job is more times than not impeded by the box that asks about criminal history. But not everywhere.

In 2013, a law was passed in California that prohibited public employers from asking about one’s record on the initial application. This gave applicants the ability to get a foot in the door for consideration, rather than being flatly denied an opportunity. Employers could then look at the nature of one’s crime to see if it would be a liability.

California Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, introduced, Assembly Bill 1008, a piece of legislation that would mandate such considerations for private employers as well, The Sacramento Bee reports. Both San Francisco and Los Angeles already have what are known as “ban the box” policies in place restricting private employers from discriminating on the initial application.

“This removes some of these arbitrary qualifiers,” McCarty said. “It does give people a chance to get their foot in the door.” 

As you can probably imagine, there are number of lawmakers and law experts who have their doubts about the value of "ban the box." They argue that such policies will cause employers to discriminate in other ways. Potentially causing them [employers] to guess who might have a criminal record, or have the unintended effect of employers giving opportunities based on race. Jennifer Doleac, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and Benjamin Hansen of the University of Oregon point out that black and Latino men are statistically more likely to have a recent conviction.

“Employers do seem to use race as a proxy for criminality,” Doleac said. “If they have a white man and a black man, they’ll be more likely to call the white guy every time.” 

Assemblyman McCarty contends that the cons for banning the box do not outweigh the pros. At the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower, we believe that this subject is important for both previous and future clients, we will continue to follow the progress of Assembly Bill 1008.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Minimum Age for Juvenile Prosecution

SB 439
In the United States, we do not have a Federal law on the books placing a minimum age for entering the juvenile justice system. As a result, individual states are left to their own devices to set such limits.

So, then, what should be the minimum age for prosecution? While it is without question difficult to determine the right age, there are two researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) who believe that the minimum age for entering the juvenile justice system should be age 12 and up, according to a university press release. Laura Abrams, a professor of social welfare in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and Dr. Elizabeth Barnert, an assistant professor of pediatrics in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA have presented a convincing argument for protecting kids 11 and younger from prosecution.

Abrams and Barnert conducted a study published in the International Journal of Prison Health, which indicates that children caught up in the juvenile system have many undiagnosed and untreated mental health needs and/or little or no guidance from parents. Putting young people who need help not jail into the juvenile justice system, the researchers point out, only serves to make their problems worse.

“Kids in conflict with the law are kids that typically have unmet health needs. We see a lot of undiagnosed depression, ADHD and learning disabilities — or absentee parents who can’t support their children due to working three jobs, deportation, imprisonment or substance abuse,” said Barnert. “When we prosecute these children or lock them away, we’re putting them in a system that traumatizes them further and often makes their problems worse.” 

The UC study has led to legislation being put forward that would set a minimum age for juvenile prosecution in place. State Senate Bill 439 (SB 439) would amend sections 601 and 602 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code related to juvenile court jurisdiction which currently states “any person under 18 years of age,” to individuals “ages 12 to 18.” Earlier this month the senate’s committee on public safety passed the bill, and it is currently at the legislative process phase. For more information on SB 439, please click here.

“Our findings provide a rationale for why California should have a minimum age for entering the juvenile justice system and why children 11 and younger should be excluded,” Barnert said. “The study recommendations are based on international human rights standards, guidelines from organizations like the American Academy of Pediatricians, and medical evidence that children’s brains do not fully mature until their mid-20s.” 

If SB 439 goes the distance and is passed into law it could have wide implications for minors and their families. We will continue to follow this important piece of legislation in the coming months. It is because of the serious nature and future impact of juvenile cases that we encourage you to contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower for appropriate representation.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Money Bail Legislation Passes First Hurdle

money bail
In February 2017, we covered a story that was of particle importance to a number of Californians, especially those kept behind bars because that cannot afford bail. We felt it vital to follow up on a piece of legislation which seeks to end money bail throughout the state, as it could affect both current and future clients; proponents of the bill claim that bail disproportionately affects poor people. If you have financial means and commit a crime you can go home, if you are on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale you must stay in jail, until a verdict is reached.

It is no secret that jail is not a place that anyone wishes to be. While one could argue that people breaking the law, who can’t afford bail, made their own bed and must now sleep in it. However, the reality is that most people are not flight risks and the longer they stay in jail the greater the risk of getting into more trouble. It is not uncommon for people to be sent to jail for one thing, only to pick up additional charges while awaiting trial. What’s more, such people who lack the means to pay bail will likely lose their job while behind bars for an indefinite amount of time. Offenders also have families to consider.

As we mentioned a couple months back, Senator Bob Hertzberg and Assemblyman Rob Bonta introduced legislation in their respective Senate and Assembly, that would allow most offenders (except for the most severe felonies) the ability to await trial from home. Last week, Senate Bill 10 passed a Senate Public Safety Committee 5-1, East Bay Times reports. A significant step to passing the legislation that could result in a ticket home for thousands of nonviolent offenders awaiting or on trial.

“Somebody is arrested, and because they don’t have a few bucks to get out of jail, they’re sitting in jail,” said Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys. “That is not justice. That is not what this country is about.” 

Instead of a judge setting bail, the legislation calls for “pretrial assessments” to decide if a defendant is a flight risk or is a safety threat, according to the article. The bill will affect communities and individual taxpayers as well. Keeping someone in jail costs taxpayers about $100 dollars per diem, and a study from the Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School found that low-risk defendants are more likely to break the law again after release from jail, compared to those set free within 24 hours of being arrested.

At the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower, we will continue to follow the future of money bail in California. It is worth noting that California is not alone in efforts to amend the institution of money bail, seven other states are considering reforms.

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

LA Sees Serious Drop In Arrests

In 2014 Proposition 47, a ballot measure that downgraded some drug and property felonies to misdemeanors, may have had a serious impact in arrest numbers throughout the state. In fact, from 2013 to 2015 the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) arrest numbers dropped by 25 percent, The Los Angeles Times reports. But Prop 47 may not be the only reason for the decrease in arrests, a pattern that has been recognized beyond Southern California.

While Proposition 47 may diminish the perceived value of arresting and processing individuals for certain drug and property crimes, because such perpetrators will not spend much time behind bars, law enforcement officials have also intimated that staff shortages and deployment strategy changes may be playing a role in the decrease, according to the article. Despite the wane in overall arrest rates, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck pointed out that arrests for the worst crimes have been on the rise.

Given the paradigm shift in thinking across the country regarding treating addicts versus arresting them, a drop in drug arrests could be a good sign that some people are getting the help they need. Chief Beck believes the decrease is predominantly the result of fewer drug possession arrests.

In the LA-area, there is evidence of an increase in crime, but a decrease in arrest since 2014. Naturally, while the Police Chief can defend his position, some public officials are concerned that something is amiss.

"Those are dramatic numbers that definitely demand scrutiny and explanation," said Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, who sits on the Public Safety Committee. "If crime was dramatically down, I wouldn’t have a problem with arrests going down. But if crime is going up, I want to see arrests going up."

Bonin makes valid points, and the trend does deserve an explanation. Once again let us defer to the Chief of Police. Beck says that gauging officer productivity should not be based solely on arrests, the article reports. Modern policing strategies are now focused on increasing public safety without necessarily having to make arrests. What could be called a “rip and run” philosophy. Which means, making as many street level arrests as possible, regardless if it has a real impact on crime.

"The only thing we cared about was how many arrests we made. I don't want them [police officers] to care about that," Beck said. “I want them to care about how safe their community is and how healthy it is."

At the Law Office of Ronald Brower, we view every criminal case as a challenge to the rights of individuals granted under the United States Constitution. We have the expertise, experience, and understanding of the law to secure the most favorable result possible for our clients. 

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