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Congratulations to Patti Lee and Jeff Adachi of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office for their tireless effort in defeating AB 2141. Patti Lee served as the lead opposition by organizing CJCJ, Youth Law Center, and the Commonwealth Juvenile Justice Program along with the Public Defenders’ Offices from 5 counties, including San Francisco and Alameda to back her in this fight against the bill. Without Patti Lee and Jeff Adachi’s opposition and perseverance in defeating this bill, more youth would be processed through the Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ) creating unrealistic terms for youth to complete their probation.

AB 2141 is an assembly bill introduced by Bonnie Lowenthal (D, Long Beach) described as Deferred Entry of Judgment: misdemeanor offenses. DEJ is a probation alternative to incarceration, but creates hurdles that produce an unsuccessful completion of probation. This bill if enacted would expand the use of DEJ from felony offenses to include misdemeanors. CJCJ views AB 2141 as a step backwards in providing youth alternatives to incarceration. CJCJ strongly opposes AB 2141 for the following reasons:

1) DEJ requires youth to enter a guilty plea, which waives their constitutional rights to a trial. If the youth does not successfully complete the probation, the youth is sentenced for their misdemeanor charge. Since youth enter a guilty plea, they are subject to searches regardless of consent. AB 2141 requires an extension of probationary period from 12 months up to three years before the dismissal of charges.

2) DEJ gives sole discretion to the prosecutor. Instead of an unbiased judge determining if the probation should be revoked for the youth, the prosecutor is the sole person that determines if the probation conditions are met and if the youth has successfully completed their probation.

3) Scientific research suggests that youths’ brains are not fully developed. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in Roper v Simmons that children are different than adults because youth lack the frontal lobe decision-making ability. Since children lack this ability, they cannot be treated the same as adults and have a better chance of rehabilitation. If this legislation were enacted, it would contradict the findings of the scientific community.

4) AB 2141 does not provide a necessary cost analysis. AB 2141 requires an extension of types of crimes and the length of probation that are processed through the DEJ. If AB 2141 is implemented, more youth will formally enter the justice system potentially costing the state more money in a time of financial crisis.

Although AB 2141 was defeated through the great advocacy work of juvenile justice stakeholders like, Patti Lee and Jeff Adachi, this bill could in the future be resurrected in a different format. CJCJ encourages all interested stakeholders to strongly oppose this bill. 

~Tamra Otten, CJCJ staff