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Florida announces new sentencing guidelines for juveniles

It’s taken almost four years since the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Florida must change the way it handles the sentencing of juvenile criminals, but the state Legislature has finally come to a consensus on how to treat juvenile offenders who are convicted of violent crimes.

The bill, which passed the Florida senate in a unanimous 36-0 vote, set out new sentencing guidelines and keeps the state concurrent with recent decisions by federal courts. 

The bill would herald many significant changes to Florida law. Juveniles serving long—or life—sentences will automatically have their sentences reviewed by a court and, if the court sees fit, could be released. For juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes, these reviews would take place after 20 years and again at 30 years, while juveniles who have previously been convicted of violent crimes will not have their sentencing reconsidered.

The measure would also make several other changes:

-  Minimum sentencing for juveniles who have committed a capital murder will be 40 years if they don’t otherwise receive a life sentence.

-  Several new factors will have to be weighed by judges tasked with sentencing a juvenile, including the maturity of the offender, his or her background, the nature of the crime, and the potential repercussions on the community.

The impetus for the new legislation was a 2010 case in which Jacksonville teen was sentenced to life for robbery. The Supreme Court ruled that his sentencing constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

The bill will now head to the House for approval.

Finding yourself or a loved one facing a conviction for a violent crime can be scary. However, hiring a Florida attorney with the experience to navigate the intricacies of the law when it pertains to violent juvenile crimes may just be the difference between a ruined life and one that can be redeemed. 

Source: ocala.com, “Legislature settles on sentencing plan for juvenile,” Lloyd Dunkelberger, April 23, 2014

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