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Law Provides Juveniles Convicted of Murder with the Possibility of Parole

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 2005 case of Roper v. Simmons that juvenile offenders could not be executed for their crimes, based on the 8th Amendment bar against “cruel and unusual punishment.” This year, the Court further extended this ruling in Graham v. Florida to prohibit life without the possibility of parole sentences for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes.

The rationale behind these rulings is that juvenile offenders lack the maturity to fully understand the nature of their crimes. In a justice system that upholds the possibility of redemption and rehabilitation, incarcerating a minor indefinitely seems unduly harsh and unforgiving, as well as expensive. The rulings recognize that children have a greater capacity for rehabilitation than adults.

The California Supreme Court extended the reasoning in the Graham case in People v. Caballero, in which a juvenile was convicted of attempted murder and was ineligible for parole until he had served 110 years. The court decided that 110 years was the equivalent of a mandatory life sentence, and ruled that juvenile prisoners may file writs of habeas corpus in trial courts, requesting judges to consider their eligibility for parole based on their “demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.”

SB 9 Gives Juveniles Sentenced to Life Without Parole a Chance at Freedom

In September of 2012 California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 9, giving juvenile offenders sentenced to life in prison without parole a chance at freedom, provided they meet certain conditions. The new law takes effect in 2013, and requires that offenders serve a minimum of 15 years in prison and that their record while in prison must demonstrate remorse and steps toward rehabilitation. There are exceptions in the law in that it does not apply to offenders who tortured their victims or killed a police officer.

California has over 300 inmates who are affected by the change in the law. If an inmate meets the criteria of SB 9, a judge could decide to shorten the inmate’s sentence to 25 years to life with a chance for parole. The inmate will then go through the same vetting process for parole as other inmates being considered for parole.

Contact Rancho Cucamonga Criminal Lawyer John D. Lueck

Rancho Cucamonga criminal defense attorney John D. Lueck has over 35 years of experience successfully defending juveniles and adults charged with misdemeanors or felonies in San Bernardino County and throughout Southern California. If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime, contact John D. Lueck today for a free consultation.

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