Juvenile Murderers Get Chance to Leave Prison in California

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Juvenile crime is a hotly contested topic in San Diego and beyond. Some people think juveniles shouldn’t spend a day in prison, while others think if they do the crime, they need to do the time. Now, Gov. Jerry Brown has weighed in by signing some new legislation that will impact juvenile offenders.

The most important is HB394.  The bill will give juveniles who are sentenced to life in prison a chance of parole after serving 25 years. They are not guaranteed to get paroled, but they will go through a parole hearing. If they are deemed worthy of parole, they will get to leave prison. This new bill will have a significant impact in the next few years, with close to 40 offenders becoming eligible for parole.

Straight from the Supreme Court

This bill follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year that states that most juvenile offenders should get a chance at parole. The one exception is when the juvenile committed a crime that indicates a “permanent incorrigibility.”

The high court’s ruling is based largely on the belief that children’s brains are not fully developed. Those who commit crimes as juveniles might not repeat their offenses after they mature. They might become contributing members of society, even if they did something terrible when they were younger. Because of that, the courts think they should get another chance, as long as they are rehabilitated.

Additional Bills

Brown has been busy regarding juvenile crime. He also modified the youth offender parole law with AB1308. Before signing this bill, those who were under the age of 23 when they committed their crimes were eligible for youth offender parole. With the stroke of the pen, Brown raised the age to 25, making more people eligible for early parole. This is a big change from where it was in 2012 when the age was 18.

The governor also signed SB180. This bill eliminates the three-year sentence enhancement that was automatically tacked onto sentences for repeat drug offenders. He also ended the automatic sentence enhancement for gun crimes. Judges can now use their own discretion.

The Right to an Attorney

One of the most interesting laws signed has to do with representation. Under a new law, juveniles who are 15 or younger cannot waive their rights without consulting with an attorney. This should help clients protect themselves and their interests. After the attorney comes in, the juvenile can consult with him or her and decide how to move forward.

These new bills show that San Diego and the state of California as a whole are working to protect juveniles, even those who have been convicted of crimes. Never make the mistake of expecting the state to offer all the protection, though. A good attorney is needed in juvenile criminal cases. Defense attorneys look out for the accused and fight for their clients. If you or your child has been charged with a crime, an attorney is a must.

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Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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