Last week the United States Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional and essentially violate the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
What is the Eighth Amendment?
The Eighth Amendment reads:
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Supreme Court’s Opinion
In its Opinion regarding Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs, the Supreme Court noted that the sentencing authorities in both cases did not have any discretion to impose a punishment other than mandatory life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole. The laws in each state involved mandated that the juveniles, who were convicted of murder, would have to die in prison even if the judge and/or jury felt that another punishment would be more appropriate, such as life in prison with the possibility of parole.
The Supreme Court holds “that the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders” (taken directly from the Court’s Opinion). The Court goes on to say that they are not prohibiting a judge or jury from giving a life sentence in a homicide case, but they are requiring that the sentencer take into account the differences in children and the type of sentence that is appropriate for each juvenile offender.
Just because a child commits a terrible crime doesn’t mean that he is forever beyond the reach of amendment. Mandatory life sentences are not always the best choice for a juvenile offender. It’s good that the Supreme Court noticed that children should be treated appropriately for their age and circumstances.
Contact a Utah Juvenile Defense Attorney
If your child is involved in current juvenile court proceedings or has been sentenced to prison, you should immediately contact a Utah juvenile defense attorney. It’s vital that every child accused of a crime be represented by a top attorney who has the juvenile’s best interests at heart.