The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects a criminal defendant who is convicted of a crime from cruel and unusual punishment. The Constitution does not define cruel and unusual punishment, however, so the courts have been tasked with interpreting whether a sentence is barred by the Eighth Amendment. In cases involving juvenile homicide offenders, the Florida courts have held that a sentence that does not provide a meaningful chance for release are improper under the Eighth Amendment.
Recently, a Florida appellate court scrutinized whether a sentence of life in prison with judicial review after 25 years was cruel and unusual punishment, ultimately ruling that it was not. If you are charged with a violent crime in Sarasota, it is essential to retain a skillful Sarasota criminal defense attorney to assist you in formulating a defense.
The Defendant’s Conviction and Sentence
Reportedly, the defendant was convicted of first-degree murder in 1985, for a crime he committed when he was a juvenile. He was first sentenced to life in prison with a possibility of parole after twenty-five years. In 2016, he moved for post-conviction relief in the form of resentencing, arguing that his sentence violated the Eighth Amendment. Following a hearing, he was resentenced to life in prison with judicial review after twenty-five years. The defendant subsequently appealed the new sentence. On appeal, the court affirmed.
Life Sentences for Juvenile Offenders
In Miller v. Alabama, the United States Supreme Court established that imposing a sentence of life in prison without a possibility of parole on a juvenile homicide offender violates the Eighth Amendment. Subsequent to Miller, the Florida courts have ruled that sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole in a homicide case violate the Eighth Amendment. The court noted, however, that Miller did not impose an absolute bar on life sentences, but required the court to consider the juvenile defendant’s youth before imposing a sentence of life in prison without parole. Further, the Florida courts have held that a life sentence without the chance of parole is reserved for rare instances, in which the crime reflects the juvenile defendant is irreparably corrupted.
Here, the court found that the defendant’s resentencing in accordance with chapter 2014-220 of the laws of Florida is the correct remedy for a sentence that violates Miller. The court stated that defendant’s new sentence was not a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole or a chance for release based on rehabilitation, which placed the sentence out of the bounds of the Miller ruling. As such, the court affirmed the defendant’s sentence.
Meet with an Experienced Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorney About Your Case
If you are a resident of Sarasota and are charged with homicide or another violent crime, you should meet with an experienced Sarasota criminal defense attorney to develop a strategy to defend against the charges you face. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a seasoned Sarasota violent crimes defense attorney who will work diligently on your behalf in the pursuit of a successful result. You can reach Mr. Hanlon at 727-897-5413 or through the form online to set up a free and confidential meeting.
More blog posts:
Florida Court Overturns Sentence due to Scoresheet Error, February 5, 2019, 2018, Sarasota Criminal Attorney Blog