First, the key to representing the juvenile client is to know them as well, if not better than, the parent or guardian. We believe that the key to successful interviewing is listening and listening very carefully and then asking follow up questions. We use “kid-friendly” language which allows our client to do as much talking as possible.
It is our job to observe whether our juvenile client appears to understand what is being explained. Therefore, we periodically have the youth repeat back to us items previously discussed so that we can have proper feedback and to determine whether the client truly understands what we are saying.
There are many barriers, limitations, cultural differences, and different language skills that can impede effective juvenile law communication and representation. We strive hard to remove those barriers so that we can become the best advocates for our youthful clientele.
Second, our skilled and experienced attorneys always conduct a very thorough interview of our youthful minor clients in all juvenile court matters. Because Juvenile Court’s main goal is individualized rehabilitation, client interviews are critical. Client interviews are far more than just asking about the facts of the case.
We try to learn every facet of the client’s life such as: How they are doing in school, their family situation, home life, who are their friends and acquaintances, what are their hobbies, interests, health history, and inquire about the general neighborhood environment which we explore to ensure that we can get a full picture of how to best advocate for our client, mitigate his/her case, and in the event the client becomes a ward, ensure successful completion of probation.
We are keenly aware that our vulnerable youth communicate not only through their words, but through body language and dress. Body language is often times more telling than what our youth wants us to hear.
Our skilled attorneys have been trained to pick up on these sometimes subtle innuendos and other non-verbal body signs and signals to help enhance our ability to get through and really help the minor through a very stressful and difficult time in their lives.
Recently, our attorneys traveled to Los Angeles for a major conference to get better acquainted with the unique skills necessary to effectively represent juvenile clients:
Thorough interviews are the key to effective and successful juvenile advocacy for our youth:
I Our Interview Goals
- We build rapport with our client as soon as possible.
- We thoroughly explain the attorney/client relationship and confidentiality in simple terms.
- We emphasize what the meaning of confidentiality is truly about so that our client will trust us and open up.
- We explain the charges, the maximum exposure, maximum confinement, and the potential disposition and /or consequences of a conviction or deferred entry of judgment.
- We thoroughly review the facts of the case with the client based on the police report and other discovery.
- We always get our client’s version of the incident no matter what the police report says.
- We always conduct a thorough interview that touches upon all aspects of our youth’s life. We always want to learn about our client’s goals, dreams, and aspirations so that we can advise them of the potential collateral consequences which could affect them for the rest of their lives.
- We use the opportunity during the interview to get written consent to obtain all records that could help mitigate or get the case dismissed—We try to obtain any special education, education in general records, school disciplinary records and dependency and/or medical/mental health records.
In addition to the above, we spend an inordinate amount of time looking at different areas of our client’s lives including but not limited to:
II Our Client’s Living Arrangement—We inquire about who do our juvenile client currently lives with, where do they sleep, do they have their own room, what is it about the home environment, if it’s quiet, chaotic, happy, or violent? We delve into five or six indicators to determine the nature and extent of familial relationships in the household.
III Potential Abuse—We have always asked our clients if anybody makes them feel uncomfortable in terms of touching, sexual talk, or other behavior that could be the root of their criminal activity or behavior. We inquire about the client’s parents, guardian, foster parent or caregiver or anyone else in the family who might be angry or act inappropriately– we try to find out why and have our client describe the actions.
IV School—one of our goals is to make certain that our juvenile client who is facing criminal charges has every opportunity to achieve all of their educational goals. We ask where the client goes to school, the type of school, and if it’s a continuation school, we want to know whether or not they attend this school regularly.
Most importantly, we want to know whether our client has any special educational needs and if an Individual Education Plan (IEP) had been implemented and request the most recent copy. We also want to know whether there was a current IEP and the follow-up.
We often find that many of our clients have had a 504 Plan, some diagnosed learning disability and had either been suspended or expelled from their school.
These are some of the inquiries that we work hard to close the achievement gap so we can do a better job representing our juvenile client.
- Drug or Alcohol Use—we strive hard to speak with our juvenile client before Juvenile Probation does there in- depth, often biased interview of the frightened juvenile. We want to know at what age our clients started using certain illegal substances, and the identity of those drugs or substances so that we can get an accurate picture for strong advocacy for drug and alcohol treatment verses incarceration.
In addition to the above and much more, we ask our clients if they made a statement to the police and what were the circumstances when that statement was made.
Oftentimes our client wasn’t Mirandized and they made various statements under duress or under circumstances that were less than ideal.
We often ask questions about the circumstances of the interrogation by the police, the length of questioning, how the client felt, whether he/she asked for a parent or an attorney to be present? Where they threatened or physically abused?
Were they denied a requested bathroom break, water or even a request to take their life saving medication!? These are some of the questions that make a difference later in the court proceedings.
It is always important to provide sufficient time for the first and follow up juvenile interviews. Sometimes these interviews cannot be done or completed before an arraignment. In those instances we strive to thoroughly complete the interview before the next court appearance. We like to prepare our client and his/her family for all court proceedings and provide everyone with an easy to understand roadmap so they know what to expect and what is expected of them!
Further we thoroughly prepare our juvenile client for the Juvenile Probation interview so that we know beforehand what the youthful offender’s strengths and weaknesses are or more importantly, his/her vulnerabilities. Hence, we can advocate more effectively emphasizing our client’s positive attributes and future potential.
We strive hard to become the true advocates for those young offenders who oftentimes have no idea what they are getting into with the Juvenile Criminal Justice System.
Please call our office for a free and confidential meeting with one of our highly skilled and experienced juvenile defense attorneys if your son or daughter has been accused or is being charged with a crime and is headed to Juvenile Court proceedings.
Don’t do this alone. You owe your son or daughter the very best zealous representation available–we have 40 years of combined legal experience. Mr. Fiumara has handled hundreds of Juvenile Court cases since 1992.
Please call our law firm 24/7 either at our Santa Rosa, Sonoma County office at (707) 571-8600 or our centrally located law firm in San Rafael, California at (415) 492-4507 in Marin County — “The right attorney makes all the difference.”