The most difficult conversations I have ever had as an attorney, has been when parents call me after their child has been investigated and/or arrested for any kind of sex crime.
I have seen an upswing in filings of late for a variety of sex crimes in children under the age of 18. One of the crimes most often alleged is California Penal Code 289—sexual penetration by foreign or unknown object. The text of the code partly reads as follows (from the California Legislature Information)
(a) (1) (A) Any person who commits an act of sexual penetration when the act is accomplished against the victim’s will by means of force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the victim or another person shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for three, six, or eight years.
(B) Any person who commits an act of sexual penetration upon a child who is under 14 years of age, when the act is accomplished against the victim’s will by means of force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the victim or another person, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for 8, 10, or 12 years.
(C) Any person who commits an act of sexual penetration upon a minor who is 14 years of age or older, when the act is accomplished against the victim’s will by means of force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the victim or another person, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for 6, 8, or 10 years.
If your child is under investigation or arrested for violating this penal code, it is so important to have a skilled attorney involved from the very beginning of the investigation. A thorough investigation and discussing the events with a child, the parents, the detectives and/or the Prosecutor can be the difference from the case being filed and your child being detained in juvenile hall.
In this age of the Me Too Movement, it is so important to discuss with your children what boundaries are and that if their partner says no, they must stop immediately. I always encourage minors to wait as long as possible before engaging in any kind of sexual act, but of course that is not always realistic. Honest conversations with your children is so important—and remember if police or the school get involved, contact a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Case In Point:
When I was contacted by a frightened couple a few months ago, I immediately had my investigator interview all witnesses involved in my client’s case and I delved into the charges. We had uncovered so much evidence that directly contradicted the victim’s version of the story, we turned over what we found to the Prosecutors who decidedly dropped the charges. Now that 17 year old client is applying to Colleges and has been vindicated. Nothing beats that feeling!
Crying, upset and scared…three words that I hear in every conversation with parents who hire me to represent their child arrested for any kind of crime. Police can arrest your child just like they do with adults. The important difference that every parent should know, is that if your child is under the age of 15, the police cannot interrogate your child unless the child has consulted with an attorney.
Until recently, a child had the right to waive their right to remain silent, just like an adult. We’ve all heard, “you have the right to remain silent,” well before Governor Jerry Brown signed the current law in effect (in late 2017), children could waive their rights to remain silent, and talk to police officers—even if their parents have no idea they are in custody.
Governor Jerry Brown recognized what science has been saying for a long time, children’s’ brains are still growing and developing and just do not have the brain capacity to understand legal concepts—and officers use that lack of development, and lack of parents’ presence to take advantage and get their cases filed…
This law is the right direction to take. I have had so many young clients admit to activities they never did, because they want to go home and fear the police so much.
Now, if police overstep, a skilled attorney can get those statements tossed out of Court! And please let your children know, do not talk to the police if they are arrested…they should call their parents and immediately hire an attorney!
When pleading to a criminal case, it is so important to use proper language. So many of my clients ask me what is the difference between pleading no contest vs. guilty.
First, what is a plea?
A “ plea” is a client’s formal response to the Court of the charges made against them—a person can plead NOT GUILTY, GUILTY or NO CONTEST. “ No contest” essentially tells the Court that the client does not admit guilt, but that the facts in the charge are true. The Court will advise in open court that a no contest plea has the same effect as a guilty plea EXCEPT when it comes to two very important issues:
• FIRST: Civil claims…a NO CONTEST plea cannot be used against the person in a civil proceeding. This is so important especially if a client is getting sued in civil court for an accident that was charged in criminal court.
• SECOND: Immigration issues, YES, a simple “ NO CONTEST” Plea can help in immigration cases where someone is renewing their application to stay in the country.
There are so many consequences to admitting a charge: From Civil Court, immigration proceedings, employment and licensing issues. That is why it is absolutely essential to protect yourself with an attorney who understands the criminal process inside and out.
When my client was charged with a serious DUI that had injured a mother of two, he was confused and scared with how to properly proceed. After careful analysis and investigation, he decided to plead no contest. By doing so, he protected himself from the victim using his plea against him in civil court. If he had plead guilty, the civil court could use his plea against him, which would have had serious consequences in his civil suit. My client ended up saving hundreds of thousands of dollars because of his skilled representation.
ABC newsrecently reported that ten Harvard bound freshman lost their College Harvard dreams when their acceptances were rescinded because of social media posts.
This case highlights what I tell my clients both young and old alike: watch what you post, because it’s not just your friends who see what you post. The police, government entities, your employers and now College admissions see your posts –and those posts can and will get you in trouble…and have consequences.
In the Harvard case, according to abcnews.com, these ten incoming freshman wrote sexually explicit content, mocked Mexicans, the Holocaust and sexual abuse.
It’s true that free speech is constitutionally protected, but Colleges have the right to have a “ zero tolerance” policy towards explicit content. And it cannot be said enough, everything posted on social media has a way of making its way public…and carries with that severe consequences.
I’ve had clients post details of crimes they have committed; teens charged with disseminating child pornography for reposting nude photos, and probation revoked for young and old alike for posting troubling pictures and/or content.
It is so important to watch what you post and most importantly watch what your teens post, for you never know who is looking and who is monitoring…I can tell you from my cases, the police, the district attorney and their investigators are watching teens posts, and so should you!
The following is a step by step guide to help parents when their child is arrested. This is part 1 of a multi part series.
The phone call from the police alone can make any parent scared beyond words: your child has been arrested.
1) Calll an attorney skilled in Juvenile defense.
An attorney who deals with juvenile clients is a must because so many criminal defense attorneys simply do not have the knowledge to represent children.
Adult law and juvenile law are completely different areas of criminal defense. Done right, your child, with proper representation, can get a clean record. Done without experience, a child can suffer the consequences of their juvenile record well into adulthood.
2) Advise your child to NOT talk to police without an attorney present.
Everything said can be used against them in Court. And parents have no constitutional right to be present when their child is questioned by police.
3) There is no bail system with children charged within the juvenile system. If your child remains in the custody of the juvenile hall, an attorney can fight for their release at the first court date which is scheduled within a 48 hour period of the child’s detainment.
4). A probation officer will be assigned to the case as soon as the child is detained. Once in Court, the probation officer, if the child is detained, writes an initial report recommending release, house arrest or further detainment.
Then after the child comes back after their first appearance, a second report is made, suggesting to the Court what the officer recommends should be done to the child.
If your child is not detained, the probation officer will write a report after the initial court appearance.
5). The probation officer will talk to the parents of the child, and the child as well. It is important the attorney places on the record that the child should not talk about the facts of the case with the probation officer –because again, that information could be used against the child in court.
6). Make sure your child attends school every day and maintains good grades while the case is pending and beyond. The Court and the probation officer look at school attendance and grades in finding the right way to handle your child’s case. Good grades, and good attendance help more than words can explain.
7). If your child has an IEP, or special education needs, let your lawyer and the probation officer know. This can effect your child’s case. Sometimes children with special needs have reasons why they commit certain offenses–and that information can help with a positive resolution to the case.
8). If possible, assembling character letters from family members or school faculty explaining how your child deserves a chance really helps. Judges do read these letters, and if people can vouch for your child’s good character, this can be a powerful tool in helping your child.
Stay tuned for PART 2 in the series What Parents Should Know If their Child is Arrested.
By: Silva L. Megerditchian, Owner and Lead Attorney for the Law Office of Silva L. Megerditchian.
10942 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1600
Los Angeles, CA. 90024