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Florida Inmates Entitled To Resentencing For Crimes Committed As Juveniles


On October 22nd, the Florida Times-Union published a story on how our criminal justice system makes it so difficult for juvenile offenders, once convicted, to leave prison and start a life for themselves. The U.S. Supreme Court has now deemed it unconstitutional to sentence a juvenile to mandatory life without the possibility of parole; specifically, the highest court in our nation was concerned about “locking kids and throwing away the key,” believing that juveniles, in particular, have the ability to change.

Now courts in Jacksonville and all over the country continue to issue lengthy sentences for juveniles that many say defy the Supreme Court’s ruling, even though many of these original sentences have since been deemed unconstitutional. For example, in seven out of nine cases in which teens were sentenced to life for childhood crimes that were not murder, the defendants will be 60 or older when they are eventually released. A large part of this is the fact that Florida prosecutors are deciding to seek life sentences all over again, in spite of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The Law Is Changing Fast for Juveniles

The law is moving fast, especially in Florida, where, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the juvenile death penalty–ending life without parole sentences for juveniles convicted of non-homicide cases–and then ended mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles convicted of homicide, the Florida Supreme Court took this decision one step further, applying that decision retroactively across the state and overturning sentences that failed to take into account the fact that the defendants were children and were so long that they were “virtually indistinguishable from a sentence of life without parole.”

The Science Supports Giving Kids another Chance

All of these decisions stem from the fundamental belief that juveniles use their brains differently than adults; specifically, that they take more risks, are more susceptible to peer pressure, and do not have adult levels of judgment. In fact, according to medical experts, the part of the brain that controls reasoning, judgment, and planning develops around the mid-20s.

Florida Inmates Now Entitled To Resentencing

The U.S. is the only nation in the world that sentences children to life without parole, and Florida has one of the highest concentrations of people now eligible to receive a new prison sentence based on recent changes in the law. The state has more than 550 inmates sentenced to life for homicides committed when they were juveniles–and who are now entitled to resentencing–and 1,000 cases in general in which defendants were sentenced to sufficiently lengthy terms which now entitle them to resentencing. Nationwide, the number is estimated to be at around 2,500 people.

Florida Attorneys Representing Juveniles Convicted To Unduly Harsh Sentences

At Lavalle, Brown & Ronan, P.A., our Boca Raton criminal defense attorneys provide a strong defense for juvenile offenders, regardless of the crimes they are accused or convicted of. We work to get the best result possible, from a dismissal of charges or not guilty verdict to favorable plea bargains, probation, and alternative sentencing options. This includes using a rapidly-changing law to appeal unduly long or life sentences. We’re here to help—contact our office today for a free consultation.


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