Defending Minors And Young Adults

Florida Court Finds 1000 Year Sentence with Parole Eligibility Provides A Meaningful Chance for Release within the Offender’s Life

The criminal legal system treats juvenile defendants differently than adult defendants. Juveniles are generally granted more protection of their rights and are often subject to different sentencing. For example, the United States Supreme Court held in Graham v. Florida that any life sentence imposed on a juvenile offender who was convicted of a non-homicide offense must provide a meaningful chance for the offender to be released before the end of the sentence.

The Supreme Court of Florida recently ruled in Franklin v. State, that the Graham holding did not prohibit a court from imposing a 1,000-year sentence with parole eligibility. If you are a juvenile charged with a crime in St. Petersburg, it is in your best interest to meet with an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney to assess the potential penalties for the crime you are charged with and help you to formulate a defense.

Alleged Facts Regarding Crimes and Sentencing

Allegedly, the defendant committed several violent crimes when he was seventeen. He was charged with several crimes in three separate cases, including kidnapping, armed robbery, and aggravated assault. During the trial in one of his cases, a physician who treated the victim testified the victim suffered the most severe injuries he had ever witnessed.

The defendant was convicted of all charges in each case, and sentenced to three concurrent 1,000-year sentences, with eligibility for parole. The Parole Commission conducted the defendant’s initial and subsequent parole hearings and determined a possible parole date of 2352. After the United States Supreme Court ruling in Graham v. Florida, the defendant filed a motion to vacate his sentence, averring that it violated the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. The trial court denied his motion and the District Court of Appeals affirmed. Upon discretionary review, the Supreme Court of Florida affirmed that the sentence did not violate Graham, and the defendant was not entitled to resentencing.

The Graham Ruling

On review, the court explained that the Graham ruling held that the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits any imprisonment for life without parole of a juvenile offender convicted of a non-homicide crime. Additionally, Graham stated that any life sentence imposed on a juvenile offender for a non-homicide crime must provide a meaningful chance for the offender to be released if he or she demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation. The court noted, however, that Graham did not require an actual release of a juvenile offender sentenced to life in prison. In a subsequent case, the Graham ruling was enlarged to prohibit life sentences without parole for juvenile homicide offenders.

Further, the Supreme Court of Florida admitted that in Atwell v. State, it held that a juvenile homicide offender’s sentence of life in prison with eligibility for parole violated the Graham ruling, as the presumptive parole date was well beyond the offender’s life expectancy. The court noted, however, that subsequent decisions from the United States Supreme Court illustrated the Atwell ruling was improper. Thus, the court held that the Florida parole process provided a meaningful chance for an offender to obtain a release within the duration of his or her life. As the defendant’s sentence offered the chance of parole, the court found it did not violate Graham.

Meet with an Experienced St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are a minor living in St. Petersburg and are currently facing criminal charges, you should meet with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to assist you in seeking a favorable outcome under the facts of your case. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney who will vigorously advocate on your behalf. Contact our offices at 727-897-5413 or via the online form to schedule a meeting.

Additional Blog Posts:

Florida Court Explains Factors Indicating Voluntary Consent to a Warrantless Search December 20, 2018, St. Petersburg Sex Crimes Lawyer Blog

Appeals Court of Florida Finds Trial Court Erred in Requiring a Defendant to Register as a Sex Offender and in its Sentencing December 10, 2018, St. Petersburg Sex Crimes Lawyer Blog

Florida Law and Withholding Adjudication October 3, 2018, St. Petersburg Sex Crimes Lawyer Blog

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