Florida Court Remands Case, Highlighting Effect of Juvenile Offender Status on Sentencing

Prison CellsThe U.S. Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama held that the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits sentencing guidelines that require life imprisonment without parole for juvenile offenders. In response, the Florida legislature passed a new set of guidelines for sentencing people convicted of Florida juvenile crimes. The guidelines ensure that juveniles have any long-term sentences reviewed by a judicial body.

Under the new framework, the status of an offender as either an adult or a juvenile at the time the crime was committed is a crucial threshold question. Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals recently remanded a case to determine whether the defendant was a juvenile at the time the crime was committed.

The defendant appealed his conviction because there were discrepancies in his age. The defendant’s arrest affidavit showed his date of birth as December 3, 1963. However, the Florida Department of Corrections listed his date of birth as December 3, 1962. The offenses for the defendant’s crimes ranged from March to May 1981. The appeals court remanded the case to the trial court to determine the defendant’s correct date of birth. If the defendant was born in 1963, the defendant could be eligible for relief under the Florida Supreme Court decision in Atwell v. Florida.

Under Atwell, the defendant was sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility after 25 years. The defendant was sentenced as a juvenile, and after 25 years, the parole board set his parole eligibility for the year 2130, which would almost certainly ensure that the defendant would spend the rest of his life in prison. If a juvenile offender is subject to a lengthy sentence (i.e., between 40 years and life imprisonment), the court is required to consider certain sentencing factors. For instance, the juvenile’s sentence is reviewed by a judge after 25 years. The judge has the opportunity to determine whether the juvenile’s sentence should be revised. The judge reviewing the juvenile’s sentence considers, as factors, the offender’s age and how that might have affected the juvenile’s actions when the crime was committed, the victim’s perspective or the victim’s family’s input regarding the release of the juvenile from confinement, and the level of risk that the juvenile offender presents to society and whether that level of risk is as high as it was at the time of sentencing.

In light of Atwell, the trial court must first determine the defendant’s age at the time of the offenses. If the defendant was a juvenile, he will be entitled to the relief set forth in Atwell.

If you are charged with any type of criminal offense in the Tampa Bay region, or even if you are under suspicion or targeted in an investigation, you should not hesitate to discuss your situation with a criminal attorney. Mr. Hanlon takes his professional responsibilities seriously, working hard to win dismissals, acquittals, or reductions of charges whenever possible. Call Hanlon Law at 813-228-7095 or use our online form to set up an appointment.

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Photo Credit: MarcelloRabozzi, [CC0 License], via Pixabay