What Are Extenuating Circumstances?

Posted by Chris Morales on Tue, Sep 08, 2015 @ 09:45 AM

A crime may be charged as a lesser offense, or a sentence may be light, if extenuating circumstances (or mitigating factors) convince the prosecutor or judge to cut the defendant a break.

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Tags: Criminal Defense, charge, criminal justice system, prosecutors, criminal conduct, crime, lesser offense, prior record

Immunity in Exchange for Testimony

Posted by Chris Morales on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 @ 12:59 PM

The Morales Law Firm would like to share this article "Immunity in exchange for Testimony" published by NOLO for all. 

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Tags: criminal justice system, testimony, incriminating, immunity

Exceptions to Confidentiality of Juvenile Criminal Records

Posted by Chris Morales on Mon, Jul 07, 2014 @ 03:00 PM
The Morales Law Firm would like to share this article: Exceptions to Confidentiality of Juvenile Criminal Records published by NOLO.
Juvenile criminal records are confidential in most circumstances, but the exceptions are significant.
To a much greater extent that its adult counterpart, the juvenile criminal justice system focuses on rehabilitation and guards against the stigma of being labeled a criminal. To that end, juvenile criminal records are generally confidential. But there are exceptions to confidentiality. (In re Jeffrey T., 140 Cal.App.4th 1015 (2006).)

(To learn more about juvenile court proceedings, which are usually considered civil rather than criminal, see Juvenile Court: An Overview.)

Among the people and entities who may be given access to juvenile criminal records are:

  • parents and legal guardians
  • juveniles’ attorneys
  • school officials
  • law enforcement agencies
  • federal, state, and city attorneys
  • research organizations, and
  • child protective agencies.

Depending upon the state, the above individuals and entities may or may not need court orders in order to inspect, receive, or copy juvenile case files.

Public Access

Under certain circumstances, juvenile criminal records may even be accessible to the general public. As juvenile crime has increased and become more violent, policy makers have had to balance between competing interests: the interests of the community and juveniles’ privacy.

Some courts may allow public access to juvenile delinquency records when “the public’s right to know and the strong interests of the victims outweigh any concern about stigmatizing the minor or endangering his chances of rehabilitation.” (U.S. v. L.M., 425 F.Supp.2d 948 (N.D. Iowa 2006).) However, agencies may have to redact sensitive information about minors in such situations, including their names.

Some states have laws that allow law enforcement agencies to release identifying information under certain circumstances. In California, for example, law enforcement agencies have some discretion to release the names of juveniles accused of crimes that are classified as serious or violent. (Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code §§ 827.2, 827.5, 827.6.) And sealing and destruction of juvenile records aren't allowed for those 14 or older who have committed such offenses. (Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 781.) The intent behind the prohibition against record sealing and destruction in California is to hold youthful offenders more accountable for their behavior. (In re Jeffrey T., supra.)

Court Proceedings

Juvenile criminal records may come out in court during trials where the juvenile is a witness and at sentencing hearings.

Right to confront

Criminal defendants have a constitutional right to confront their accusers. In part, the right of confrontation allows a defendant to introduce evidence of a witness’s motive to lie. If a witness testifying against a defendant is a juvenile, the defendant may be able to access the juvenile’s criminal record and at trial introduce evidence relating to it. For instance, the criminal record may show that the juvenile has a motive to lie in exchange for leniency. However, the defense typically needs to establish that the juvenile committed serious acts of delinquency that are related to the juvenile’s testimony. Moreover, prior to disclosing a juvenile’s records, courts scrutinize them to make sure to reveal only relevant information. (For information on a defendant’s right to information, see Discovery. Also see Investigating a Criminal Case.)

Sentencing hearings

Some states authorize courts to consider the juvenile offenses of adult criminal defendants during sentencing hearings relating to later crimes. States may limit the use of juvenile records in this context—for example, allowing consideration of violent juvenile offenses only. (For more on factors that increase sentences, see Aggravating Circumstances in Sentencing.)

Seek Expert Guidance

Exceptions to the confidentiality of juvenile records vary across the states and from state to federal court, and depend on the circumstances. For a more comprehensive overview of juvenile-record confidentiality, consult an attorney experienced in juvenile law. Consult such a lawyer if you have concerns about the privacy of particular records or want to know whether you can access them.

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Tags: rehabilitation, criminal justice system, criminal record, juvenile, confidential

How the Drug War Impacts the Criminal Justice System

Posted by Chris Morales on Mon, Jun 16, 2014 @ 01:55 PM

The Morales Law Firm would like to thank Meisha Bergmann for sharing “How the Drug War Impacts the Criminal Justice System” with us. For more information visit: http://www.online-paralegal-programs.com/drug-war/

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Tags: law, criminal justice system, drugs, offense, arrested

Eight Amazing Tips For Defender's Survival in Tough Times

Posted by Chris Morales on Mon, Jul 29, 2013 @ 12:51 PM

All defenders - whether under court appointment or government contract or in a defender office - experience days in which they find themselves sunk to the farthest depths of despair and despondency. Theses feeling are brought on by the unusual travails of a burdensome caseload, demanding and needy clients, unsympathetic judges, and predatory prosecutors.

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Tags: jail, court, criminal justice system, cases, defense attorney, criminal

The Cost of Representation Compared to the Cost of Incarceration

Posted by Chris Morales on Mon, Jul 15, 2013 @ 12:16 PM

Fifty years ago the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the “obvious truth that a lawyer is a necessity and not a luxury when a defendant faces a criminal charge”. While the need for the assistance of council may have been obvious to the Court, legislators have not always seen things so clearly. The reluctance to adequately fund indigent defense is undoubtedly based on an unwillingness to spend money on attorneys to represent defendants who are perceived as most likely guilty. Providing defendants with representation is therefore seen as a waste of money; attorneys will only delay the inevitable and will make the criminal justice system less efficient. Indigent defense providers have typically responded to this sort of prejudice by pointing out that every defendant is presumed to be innocent and is entitled to due process of law. While that is certainly true, those arguments too often fall on deaf ears.

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Tags: defendant, guilty, criminal justice system, indigent, criminal charge, attorneys, incarceration

How Lawyers Defend a Guilty Client in a Criminal Case

Posted by Chris Morales on Fri, Feb 01, 2013 @ 04:03 PM

Can my lawyer represent me if he knows I'm guilty?

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Tags: Criminal Procedure, Criminal Charges, Criminal Defense, criminal justice system, Criminal Law, criminal, crime, criminal attorney

8 Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer

Posted by Chris Morales on Fri, Jan 18, 2013 @ 05:14 PM

Mistake #1: Using the Public Defender

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Tags: Criminal Defense, criminal justice system, arrest, San Francisco Criminal Attorney, San Francisco Criminal Lawyer, Criminal Law, San Francisco Criminal Defense., San Francisco arrest

Is Eyewitness Identification of a Crime Worthless?

Posted by Chris Morales on Wed, Dec 19, 2012 @ 11:10 AM
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Tags: Criminal Defense, criminal justice system, Criminal Law, psychology, eyewitness identification, crime