On July 1, 2016, California courts will adopt rules of court in juvenile cases to ensure that appointed defense attorneys are qualified to represent juveniles. This legislation comes in response to the public outcry for better representation for juveniles. The California juvenile justice system is guided by different rules and procedures than the adult criminal system. The California legislature has recognized that delinquency attorneys (juvenile defense attorneys) need specialized skills, education, and training; “Advances in brain research demonstrate that children and adolescents do not possess the same cognitive, emotional, decision making, and behavioral capacities as adults. Counsel must ensure that these differences are appropriately recognized in the attorney-client relationship and defense of the case.” (Assembly Bill No. 703.) The new law, effective July 1, 2016, applies to appointed attorneys, such as public defenders. However, it is important that private attorneys meet these qualifications, even though they are not required to by law.
Here at Hammerschmidt Broughton, attorney Sally Vecchiarelli has committed much of her practice to the defense of juveniles. On June 3, 2016, Ms. Vecchiarelli attended a seminar put on by the Pacific Juvenile Defender Center in Los Angeles, where the most recent developments in juvenile defense were discussed. The seminar covered an overview of juvenile delinquency law and procedure, child and adolescent development, special education, competence and mental health issues, attorney’s ethical duties, advocacy in the post-dispositional phase (after sentencing), appellate advocacy, direct and collateral consequences of court involvement for minors, and securing rehabilitative resources. This was the second seminar Ms. Vecchiarelli has attended this year regarding juvenile law.
Before proceeding in the juvenile court, it is vital to have an attorney that is educated in the intricacies of juvenile defense. A juvenile needs an attorney who can properly examine the case and who will consider the future impact the outcome of the case can have on the juvenile’s life as they enter adulthood.