A fierce fighter for youth, Public Defender Jeff Adachi rails against gang injunctions, a civil penalty applied mainly in public housing developments that drive from their homes and families young men reputed to be involved in a gang. Here he speaks at a rally in front of City Hall on July 12, 2007. In poor neighborhoods, Jeff Adachi had more credibility than any other public official and would often be sought out to speak on issues too hot for others to handle. – Photo: John Han, Fog City Journal

by Katy St. Clair

San Francisco – Youths ages 17 and below who are detained by San Francisco police officers will now be guaranteed to have an attorney present during their Miranda advisement, and the authorities are required to have a parent or guardian present during their questioning, Juvenile Division Manager for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office Patricia Lee announced Feb. 27.

Ordinance No. 181217 has been named for late Public Defender Jeff Adachi and was passed unanimously. The “Jeff Adachi Youth Rights” ordinance is the first of its kind in California, and Lee hopes that similar guidelines will soon be implemented throughout the state.

“Our youth are incredibly scared and vulnerable when they are asked to talk to the police, and many of them cannot understand what their rights are,” said Lee. “I’ve represented 12-year-olds who don’t even understand what a lawyer is or what the courts do. This ordinance ensures that they will have an advocate for them who will make sure that they understand what is happening.”

The right to waive legal counsel will not be allowed to be applied to youth, as well. As of Jan. 1, 2018, youth 15 and under were required to have an attorney present, but now thanks to the Board of Supervisors the ordinance will apply to all youth 17 and under.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen led the charge for these changes and posted on her Facebook page that this ordinance “creates the strongest law in the country protecting children and youth in police custody.”

The Public Defender’s Office is currently in mourning at the sudden death of Jeff Adachi, who was just elected to his fifth term as public defender.

“We are so excited to have this important legislation be named in honor of our fearless visionary leader, Jeff Adachi, who championed the rights of youth and provided a level of resources not only to our juvenile unit but to the communities in San Francisco where our youth and families reside,” said Lee. “Through this ordinance, Jeff is still championing the rights of our youth. This decision will have a far-reaching impact on youth in SF and hopefully soon in the rest of California and the nation. Rest in power, Jeff Adachi!”

Katy St. Clair, public information officer for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, can be reached at Katy.StClair@sfgov.org.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Bay View. 

SF Board of Supervisors unanimously passes Jeff Adachi Youth Rights ordinance

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