Last year, the United States Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to sentence a juvenile to life without any chance of parole. Now, the California state supreme court will visit a case, trying to determine if three lengthy sentences adding up to 110 years would be barred under the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling.
The specific case involves a teenage gang member who was sentenced to 110 years for three charges of attempted murder. He was sixteen at the commission of the crime and admitted to trying to kill the victims, members of a rival gang. His sentence would not allow him the opportunity for parole until he was 122 years old and his attorney argues this makes his sentence unconstitutional.
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a similar case last year, they spoke of a juvenile’s lack of impulse control and good chance at rehabilitation. They determined juveniles should have the chance to redeem themselves and show that they are capable of living a productive and law abiding life outside of prison after serving a portion of their sentence.
In other words, they determined juveniles should be afforded the opportunity for parole unless the crime they are sentenced for is murder.
The California case is slightly different because he isn’t sentenced to life without a chance of parole. However, he likely won’t see that parole eligibility date. His attorneys argue the same reasoning should be used in his client’s case that was used in the federal case. But the Second District Court of Appeals disagreed earlier this year.
Several states across the country have had to reevaluate certain sentencing practices when it comes to juveniles after the Supreme Court made their ruling. Now, the state of California will be addressing one major concern with the ruling and perhaps setting precedence for other cases yet to come.
Juvenile justice in California involves walking a line between ensuring the youth are held accountable but allowing them slightly greater chance at reform than an adult who maybe “should’ve known better”. But this doesn’t always mean juveniles accused of crimes are treated with extra sensitivity.
A criminal defense attorney experienced in California juvenile law can help make sense of the sometimes confusing system in place. If you or your child is facing charges in the California courts, contact us for a consultation on your case today.