Juvenile Offenders Cannot Be Sentenced to Life Without Parole
On March 23, 2015, the United States Supreme Court decided to once again consider arguments in a case concerning life sentences for juvenile offenders. This issue drew national attention in 2012 when the High Court heard Miller v. Alabama and ruled that it was unconstitutional to impose mandatory life sentences on juvenile offenders. Three years later, a new case, Montgomery v. Louisiana, seeks to extend the Miller ruling to inmates who are already incarcerated.
Juvenile Offender Sentencing Guidelines Changing
The court system has been changing the way it deals with juvenile offenders for the last decade. In 2005, the Supreme Court barred juveniles from being sentenced with the death penalty; and in 2010 in Graham v. Florida the Court decided that in most cases it was unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life without parole (the exception being in cases of homicide.) The Miller case extended the Graham ruling to all crimes committed by a juvenile offender.
Miller v. Alabama requires a judge to take into account an individual’s particular circumstances on a case by case basis rather than automatically declaring a life sentence, even in cases that involve a homicide. The logic behind the ruling is that juvenile offenders, who are not mentally or physically developed into adults, should not be held to the same standard or punished to the same degree as adult offenders. In other words, the inherent transience of the juvenile definition necessitates a different correctional path, with more options for rehabilitation than can be considered for adults.
Reevaluating Sentences of Inmates Convicted as Juveniles
Some states have chosen to extend the Miller ruling to past cases and open them for appeal, and some have not. Florida and California are both allowing for juvenile offender sentencing hearings. Recently, the State Supreme Court of Florida invalidated all of the sentences for inmates who had received mandatory life sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles. The 2012 Miller decision was directly cited by the Court in its ruling. Unfortunately, juvenile offenders sentenced in Pennsylvania and Louisiana have so far been denied the opportunity to have their cases reheard.
Montgomery v. Louisiana brings into question the rights of those incarcerated before the Miller ruling was handed down. The case is named for Henry Montgomery who was only 17 when he killed a sheriff in Louisiana. He is now 68 and still serving his life sentence. Should the Supreme Court rule in his favor, Montgomery would be eligible to have his case re-examined to determine if he might be eligible for parole after nearly 50 years in prison. Nationally, there are more than 1,500 prisoners who were sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes committed before they were of legal age.
Cherry Hill Criminal Lawyer, Jill R. Cohen, Will Fight for Your Criminal Appeal
Cherry Hill Criminal Lawyer, Jill R. Cohen, formerly served as an assistant Philadelphia district attorney where she spent two years arguing for leniency at the appellate level. Ms. Cohen has over 30 years of criminal defense experience and uses her knowledge to defend clients against criminal charges in New Jersey. To speak to a Cherry Hill criminal lawyer about the possibility of appealing your criminal conviction, call the Law Offices of Jill R. Cohen today or submit an online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
We are located in Westmont, New Jersey and serve clients throughout the state, including in Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Camden County, Gloucester County, Atlantic County, Salem County, Burlington County, Cumberland County, Mercer County, and Camden City.