Monday, November 15, 2010

U.S Supreme Court Ruling Could Affect Florida Juvenile Defendants

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses the recent U.S. Supreme Court Ruling and how it may affect juveniles convicted of criminal offenses.


The U.S. Supreme Court recently made a ruling that reduces penalties for juvenile offenses in certain situations.  The high court ruled that juveniles who commit crimes (with the exception of homicide) before turning 18 should not be subject to a sentence of life without the possibility of parole as the court considered it cruel and unusual punishment.

In Florida, the state abolished parole for life sentences in 1983, thus, a life sentence has meant life for juveniles until now.  As a life sentence is no longer legal under the Supreme Court ruling there are few options for Florida judges who want to impose the harshest of sentences for juveniles.  Now, Florida judges are in a dilemma when they want to hand out the maximum punishment - for example, would multiple back-to-back 30 year sentences be considered “life?”  What about a 70 year sentence?  Pinellas County and other Florida judges are left to interpret the ruling and research cases in other jurisdictions to seek direction.

Why This Matters To You:

This new gray area leaves the Supreme Court’s ruling up for interpretation and makes certain juvenile sentences ripe for appeal.  Additionally, as judges can no longer hand out life sentences to juvenile offenders, Florida Legislators must come up with a solution.  Currently in discussion is a bill that would give juvenile offenders affected by the Supreme Court ruling an opportunity for parole after 25 years.

Juveniles would still have to meet certain criteria to be eligible for parole under the bill including good behavior and achievement of a GED.

Regardless of changes to the the law, it is very important to retain a Criminal Defense Attorney with experience in the Juvenile Justice System if your child has been arrested.  In many cases, even a minor juvenile offense can have long lasting effects if not handled properly.

What To Do Next:

If your child has been arrested for a criminal charge, contact a St. Petersburg Juvenile Attorney to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your child’s case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your child’s case directly with an attorney, or fill out our Online Form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation.  The Morris Law Firm can help and has specific knowledge and experience in defending Juvenile Crimes offenders throughout Pinellas County and the entire Tampa Bay, FL Area (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco, Bradenton, Manatee, and Sarasota).