Teen Recruits Smuggling Drugs Across Border: Feds (Sam Spital)

COMMENTARY BY SAM SPITAL, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY SAN DIEGO:

“Channel 7 San Diego online news on November 16, 2012 reported both Mexican and American teenagers, as young as 12 years old, are being recruited by drug cartels to smuggle drugs (referred to as “mules”) across the border. Federal Agents of the Homeland Security report that last year there were 190 and so far this year nearly 130 teens who were recruited at malls, arcades and outside schools, as well as through social media, such as Facebook, were caught smuggling narcotics.. These minor children are told they will not face serious penalties in the Juvenile Court system and can earn from $50 to $500 to carry drugs under their clothing. Initially only targeting young boys, the drug cartels are using young girls as well.

At one time marijuana was the drug of choice, and now it is methamphetamine (commonly referred to as “meth”), which is a stimulant and highly addictive narcotic. Some people use meth because it can help them lose weight, although the results are extremely short lived as the body builds a tolerance and more and more has to be taken to the point it has little or no value, but by that time the individual has become addicted to it and cannot stop. Others use meth for increased energy, sexual pleasure and by those who suffer depression. Without strict controls and supervision by a competent physician, the drug can lead to brain damage and even death. Parents need to maintain open communications with their children to the point they dialogue on life issues, pick up on their children’s activities, who are their friends and are alert to changes in behavior. While society has seemingly advanced in technical ways, open and regular communications and everyday discussions seem to have been lost to text messaging and chat rooms.”

SAM SPITAL, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY SAN DIEGO

 

 

Articles: Delinquency

LOS ANGELES DAILY JOURNAL
November 02, 2004
ROLE OF DELINQUENCY ATTORNEY WILL EXPAND
By Blair Clarkson
Daily Journal Staff Writer
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LOS ANGELES – The juvenile-delinquency court has been called everything from a revolving door to the unwanted stepchild of the justice system. Critics lament a sloppy system that strands minors in youth camps for months or years without effective treatment, only to send them back to court soon after their release.

The new state Rule of Court Section 1479, unveiled in July and presented to lawyers, social workers, judges and child advocates at a family and children’s law conference on Friday, attacks the problem by expanding the delinquency attorney’s role to include advocacy after the court case is finished.

“It’s giving emphasis to a new and important way to start representing kids,” said Jo Kaplan, a prominent delinquency lawyer and juvenile-court commissioner. “This rule says that delinquency counsel have a responsibility to see that the delinquent gets treatment.”

“If you don’t advocate for them to get treatment and services, they’re never going to get better,” Kaplan told an audience at the 9th annual New Beginnings conference in Los Angeles. Objectors, however, said delinquency attorneys have full calendars and lack the time and money to act as social workers for each of their clients.

While Joan Croker, head deputy in the juvenile division of the Los Angeles County public defender’s office, supports post-disposition advocacy, she says financial realities make it impossible. “In a perfect world, we would do this for every single client,” Croker said. “But nobody can afford that. The system doesn’t have the time. We need more funding to do it the way it should be done.”

Delinquency attorney Pat Rice, who joined Kaplan on Friday, insisted the job can be done. “Scheduling will be a hassle with juggling new hearings and follow-ups, but you’ve just got to do it,” Rice said. “All we really have to do is think a little differently.” The new rule outlines a dual role for delinquency lawyers. In addition to learning everything possible about a client’s particular mental health and personal life, the advocate must review the client’s treatment plan continually, see that it is fully executed in rehabilitation camps and work with the child toward permanent solutions. The extra work will cut into the high recidivism that attorneys say is a product of lack of follow-up to ensure that the delinquent child receives the particular educational or psychological services he or she needs in youth camps and juvenile facilities.

An Orange County report cited by the League of Women Voters Juvenile Justice Commission found that 8 percent to 12 percent of juvenile offenders accounted for 60 percent of juvenile crimes. “Nobody ever checks up on these kids,” Kaplan said. “This is really an opportunity for lawyers to figure out a way to check on their clients to see that they’re getting the remedial help they need.” Recent scathing rebukes of the California Youth Authority and other juvenile camps have raised awareness among delinquency advocates about the dearth of services for children in the system. The state has the highest rate of youth incarceration in the country, and overcrowding has limited youth camps’ ability to provide help, according to the state legislative analyst’s office. A concerted effort to correct these problems is long overdue, said Sue Burrell, a staff attorney at the Youth Law Center. “This rule says very loudly that cases should be brought back to court if kids aren’t getting what they need at camps,” Burrell said. “One of the sad things is that everybody acts as though the case is over after disposition. “But that’s when the whole rehabilitation process is supposed to take place.” Yet Burrell, a former L.A. County public defender, acknowledges that more funding and staffing and lighter caseloads will be needed to offset the huge amount of additional work and investigation demanded from delinquency attorneys. “The system has to provide resources to make sure it can be done,” she said. “It’s hard to expect that public defenders can do all this without help.”

Sam Spital, a former deputy attorney general and probation officer now representing delinquents at Spital & Associates in San Diego, says he has little pity for critics of the rule change.

“If you don’t have the time to follow up with your clients, don’t take the case,” Spital said. “Is it about the money you get or about keeping them from coming back into the court system?”

Verdict reached but sealed in trial of teen accused in rapes of two girls

COMMENTARY BY SAM SPITAL, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:

‎”On October 26, 2012, the CBS online news reported a 17 year old boy was tried as an adult in the San Diego Superior Court and found guilty of rape, kidnapping and sodomy by force upon two girls who were friends taking a walk in a local park. These horrific and unspeakable crimes were committed in conjunction with a second defendant who faces a separate trial, and no doubt the reason the Judge sealed the verdict pending the outcome of that ongoing trial.

According to the Deputy District Attorney, the two teenagers were smoking marijuana when they saw the two girls, at which point one of the boys held a knife and used threats to force them to a secluded place where they were brutally and repeatedly attacked and subjected to a ‘30- to 40-minute series of sexual assaults that included every imaginable kind of rape.’ The police account reflected the defendant’s admission as well as the following statement: ‘(Expletive) happens… The body is weak when it sees flesh.’

The Defense Lawyer argued her client was not guilty and acted out of ‘impulse;’ he ‘cooperated after his arrest and admitted what he did.’ The article did not report and, therefore it is heart-wrenching there was no evidence of remorse, mitigation &/or recognition of wrongdoing of the savage behavior by the defendant who faces up to 325 years to life in State Prison. The reader is left wondering if either defendant has any redeeming quality having taken away the innocence of two girls who are and will be scared for life.”SAM SPITAL, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY

Funding treatment for boy accused in murder at issue (Sam Spital)

“On September 25, 2012, the UT digital edition reported a 10 year old boy is accused of murder and assault with a deadly weapon.

Apparently, another child tried to separate two neighborhood children who were in an altercation in which one was threatening the other with a knife; the fatal stabbing took place in a location adjacent to a mobile home park near El Cajon.

The criminal case was suspended by the Court due to the child offender being held mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Now, it is unclear what will take place because juvenile offenders are generally taken to Juvenile Hall, at the expense of their parents. Until the boy is deemed competent, however, he needs to be placed in a residential treatment facility as a result of the evaluations of two psychiatrists who claim he suffered from mental and developmental issues from fetal alcohol syndrome.

In the interim, the attorney for the boy charged with the above crimes is looking for funding.

The conundrum here is the lack of funding to treat individuals in society before they commit heinous crimes that later become a reality after a homicide, much like the unparalleled situation when the barn door gets closed when the horse gets out.

When will we as a society know we cannot spend too much money for the treatment of mental health issues? When will parents and others obtain education to identify and properly deal with symptoms that inevitably occur leading up to eventual improper &/or uncontrollable behavior (certainly we cannot allow the surge of criminality as we have seen in recent times)?

As a criminal defense attorney, I personally share the sadness of the victim’s family and the juvenile offender’s loved ones. But that grief is outweighed by a concern that society and our schools are not doing enough to identify and prevent the factors that lead to criminality.”

Sam Spital, Criminal Defense Lawyer

Report: 55 Percent of Arrested Juveniles Tested Positive for Drugs

“In a study released to the news media September 6, 2012, it was reported that 55% of juveniles who were arrested in San Diego County tested positive for drugs. The study also discovered that 58 percent of adult males and 63 percent of adult females arrested also tested positive. Our schools need to place a greater emphasis on education and prevention inasmuch as those who use drugs have the highest incidence of other crimes, such as petty theft (shoplifting), DUI, vandalism, etc. Equally important is the sanctions imposed by the Courts, which should continue to place a greater focus upon intervention and sobriety, and perhaps use more creative incentive programs along with the standard support systems as part of the sentencing protocols.”

Sam Spital, Criminal Defense Lawyer

Child accused in San Diego stabbing murder found mentally incompetent (SAM SPITAL)

“Any time a 10 or 11 year old child is charged with murder, it is not only unspeakable for the victim’s family but the family of the accused also suffers emotional harm. It has been reported the child in this case had a mental illness, the Juvenile Court Judge found him mentally incompetent and, therefore, he could not stand trial until declared otherwise. This is a procedure in both juvenile and adult court.

Clearly, an accused must understand the charges brought against him and be able to assist his attorney who must ascertain sufficient facts to evaluate the options for presenting a defense Sometimes it is not whether an individual committed a crime, but whether he could formulate the required intent to be held guilty. In addition, if an individual is deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial, an effective and proper representation by legal counsel would not be possible, thereby denying the accused of due process of law. There may be a challenge for the Court in this case as a result of the defense lawyer stating the child is “remorseful,” since that would evince some type of understanding of the wrongful nature of his acts after the event(s) in question. Given a conundrum such as it seems, the Court has to exercise its sound discretion and have the child evaluated by a mental health professional to determine whether he is currently fit to stand trial.”

Sam Spital, Criminal Defense Lawyer

Bill offers juvenile lifers 2nd chance (SAM SPITAL)

The Bill is premised on the theory anyone under age 18 (except those convicted of torture or the killing of a law enforcement officer) can obtain what amounts to a “get out of prison card” because juveniles should not be incarcerated for life without parole if they can show rehabilitation. But, it is a slippery slope and eventually the legislature may say the same for adults.

Why keep anyone in prison after 25 years?

Then, should we ask the same question after a convicted felon has spent 20 years in prison?

Is there a sufficient deterrence for rape, robbery, murder, kidnapping and other heinous crimes since there no longer would be life sentences?

What about the adult population in prisons that are over 65, should they be incarcerated any longer?

There are complex issues on all sides of the equation, but interestingly no Republicans supported the Bill. Do these Assembly persons know something about dangerous felons and the theory and purpose of crime?

Perhaps the narrative should be changed and we should give our criminal trial judges more discretion in imposing sentences since they have witnessed the facts of a crime and are a better resource.

The debate continues.

Sam Spital, Criminal Defense Lawyer

Hamden cops arrest teen in weekend slaying of man, 22 (SAM SPITAL)

“Sadly, bad things can happen to good people. It is so important that family members, friends and associates be aware of problematic signs that often cause individuals to make bad decisions and/or engage in criminal behavior, and even with no prior criminal history. There are simply far too many pressures that society faces and people need support systems.”

Sam Spital, Criminal Defense Lawyert

 

J.D.B. v. North Carolina

On June 16, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case of J.D.B. v. North Carolina, Case # 09-111121, https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/09-11121.pdf

held police must consider age and school setting when questioning a child and, therefore, whether they are required to give a Miranda warning. This case involved a thirteen year old seventh grade special education student who was removed from his class, and then taken to a closed door meeting with the school Assistant Principal and questioned by police regarding two burglaries. The U.S. Supreme Court determined that children would not reasonably believe they could leave a room when questioned by police in a school setting and, therefore, must be given a Miranda warning. In other words, this type of a setting was deemed overly coercive because children inherently obey authority and are generally under the belief they must remain in the office and answer questions by a school administrator.

Neither the police nor the school administrators first advised the thirteen year old student of (1) his right to remain silent pursuant to the Miranda warning when questioned; (2) that he was free to leave the room; nor (3) was he afforded an opportunity to talk with his grandmother or legal guardian. After questioning for about forty-five minutes, the student admitted to the burglaries. Juvenile petitions were filed against him, and after a hearing the court adjudicated J.D.B. delinquent. The North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed as did the North Carolina Supreme Court, holding he was not in custody when he confessed to require a Miranda warning. The U.S. Supreme Court granted Certiorari and reversed the judgment of the state Supreme Court. Essentially, children must be given the same Miranda procedural safeguards that are guaranteed to adults.

Miller v. Alabama

On March 20, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama, Case # 10-9646, will decide whether a juvenile who commits a homicide and is sentenced to life in prison without parole constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and, therefore, a violation of the 8th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Miller was 14 years old at the time of the offense of killing a neighbor in a trailer park. The facts are heinous in that after severely beating the victim who could not get off the ground, Miller set fire to the trailer causing the victim to die of smoke inhalation. The defense had argued in its Brief that the trial court should be allowed to consider mitigating circumstances and the age of a minor rather than be obligated by a mandatory sentencing law. The government argued the crime was the most aggravated form of murder (bludgeoning a person to death with a baseball bat despite pleas for mercy/help, and then setting the trailer on fire). Accordingly, the prosecution argued it had appropriately used its discretion in transferring the case to adult court where the jury found Miller guilty of capital murder.

It is noteworthy that in 2010, the Supreme Court barred life without parole for youths under age 18 when convicted for non-homicide crimes in the case of Graham v.FloridaCase #08-7412, May 17, 2010https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-7412.pdf. The Miller Court’s Decision will determine whether the Graham holding should be applied to minors convicted of murder.

What is your opinion? Do you feel juveniles are more vulnerable to external influences, do not have the capacity as adults to exercise mature judgment and as such should not face the same penalty for a homicide?

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