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U.S. Supreme Court Rules No Mandatory Life Without Parole For Juveniles

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In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that individuals who were under 18 when they committed their offenses can still be sentenced to life in prison, but those sentences cannot be mandatory.

Cases in which juvenile offenders can be sentenced as adults are cases in which the juvenile has been the subject of a direct file. That is, the juvenile offender has been charged as an adult.

Crimes, such as first-degree murder, require the court to impose a mandatory life sentence. Prior to this ruling, juvenile offenders who had been direct filed for a first-degree murder charge could be sentenced to a mandatory life term if convicted.

Now, judges will be forced to take into consideration several factors when sentencing a juvenile offender, even if the charge normally carries a mandatory life term.

While judges can still sentence juvenile offenders to life in prison, they can no longer do so mandatorily and without consideration for mitigating factors. This ruling gives judges more discretion.

Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney representing juvenile offenders, both in juvenile court and Circuit Court (adult court). Attorney Eric Matheny represents clients in Miami-Dade and Broward.