Juvenile Mandatory Life Without Parole Sentences Declared Cruel And Unusual

In a decision that could have far-reaching impact, the United States Supreme Court has banned mandatory life sentences for juveniles. This means that more than 2,000 inmates nationwide may have an unexpected chance at freedom – and renewed hope. Currently in Michigan, 364 inmates are serving mandatory life sentences for crimes committed before age 18.

Based on the Court’s decision in Jackson v. Hobbs and Miller v. Alabama, lawyers may be able to request new sentences for clients who where incarcerated for a crime committed as a juvenile. Judges will now have the discretion to weigh various issues in handing down a sentence, rather than just imposing a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. Instead, judges may consider factors such as a prisoner’s age, background and evidence that an individual has changed while in prison.

If you or your minor is child is under investigation for or charged with any criminal activity in Michigan should seek the counsel of an experienced Michigan juvenile crimes attorney at once. Because potential penalties may affect your future, fighting back right away, with the help of an aggressive Michigan criminal defense attorney can help protect your rights, fight to keep your case in juvenile court and keep you out of jail.

Here, the Supreme case evaluated two 14-year-olds convicted in separate robberies. In Miller v. Alabama, a 14-year-old boy was implicated in setting fire to a neighbor’s home. The neighbor subsequently died. In Jackson v. Hobbs, Jackson was present during a robbery at a store where another teenager shot and killed the store clerk.

Writing for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan noted that forcing judges and juries to give life sentences without the possibility of parole regardless of mitigating circumstances, violates rules requiring “individualized sentencing for defendant facing the most serious penalties.”

“We therefore hold that mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on ‘cruel and unusual punishments.”

The Court commented to judges that when a youthful murderer is before the bench they will have “great difficulty” distinguishing between a minor whose crime reflected “unfortunate yet transient immaturity” and “the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption.” The opinion concluded: “Although we do not foreclose a sentence’s ability to make that judgment in homicide cases, we require it to take into account how children are different, and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in prison.”

Juvenile advocates have heralded this decision as a step in the right direction, recognizing that children must be treated differently in the eyes of the law, even where violent crimes including murder, homicide and robbery are involved.

For more information about Michigan juvenile law, or to speak to a skilled Michigan juvenile crimes attorney, contact the top Michigan juvenile defense law firm of Grabel & Associates for an immediate consultation.