Senate Bill 1052, which has recently been approved by the California Senate and Assembly and sent back for a final vote, is designed to help minor defendants understand their legal rights before a police interrogation. This Bill will ensure that anyone under the age of 18, who has committed a crime, be given legal advice and a full understanding of Miranda rights before being questioned by the police.
California is one of the few states that does not require children to be given legal advice by an attorney or legal guardian when they are taken into custody. There are hundreds of cases of children under the age of 12 committing felonies, according to the state. Legislature was prompted to introduce the bill after the case of Joseph H. v State of California.
Joseph Hall’s Story
Joseph Hall was raised by an abusive father (Jeffery Hall) who, according to court documents, was physically abusive to his son and family. In 2011, Joseph took his father’s pistol from his father’s bedroom, and shot Jeffery Hall in the head. Joseph was ten years old at the time.
There is no question as to whether or not Joseph had committed his crime, but a question remained of if he knew the full impact and consequences of his actions. When police arrived on the scene, they report that Joseph asked them, “How many lives do people usually get?” This statement provides evidence that Joseph did not truly understand the concept of death, or the implications of killing his father.
Joseph was taken into police custody and was interrogated by a detective. Joseph waived his Miranda rights just over an hour into the interrogation without first consulting a legal adviser. In 2013, Joseph was convicted of second degree murder, sentenced to ten years in a juvenile detention institution, and has been incarcerated ever since.
One key aspect of Joseph’s case is that because of his developmental disabilities and young age, Joseph did not understand what waiving Miranda rights meant, or what rights he was entitled to. Furthermore, Joseph may not have known the full wrongfulness of his actions at the age of ten, which might have impacted the charges and punishment in his case. Joseph’s case is pending an appeal to the Supreme Court after being declined in the California District Court. Joseph will be released at the age of 23 if he serves his full current sentence.
Scott Ballenger, a member of Joseph’s legal team, stated “There’s not a ten year old on the planet who ought to be in a position of waiving a constitutional right without advice from an adult.”