When you think of Teenage and Juvenile Crime it is important to remember that the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits the use of cruel and unusual punishment. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for states to sentence juveniles offenders convicted of murder to mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole.
The Court explained that such mandatory sentencing schemes prevent the Court from considering the juvenile offender's age and the characteristics and circumstances that are attendant to it, such as maturity level, impulse control, and the ability to appreciate the risks and consequences. The Court has also recognized that the juvenile's family and home environment should be taken into account as well as the extent of his involvement in the offense and the effect that his family and friends may have had on him. Finally, the Court noted that mandatory sentencing schemes ignore the possibility that juvenile offenders could be rehabilitated, even where their individual characteristics and circumstances suggest it most.
This decision is in line with prior Supreme Court decisions, which have held that juveniles cannot be sentenced to death or mandatory life without the possibility of parole in cases that do not involve homicide. However, it is important to recognize that the Court did not bar sentencing juvenile offenders convicted of murder to life without the possibility of parole altogether. Juvenile homicide offenders can still be sentenced to life without parole as long as their sentence is determined by a judge or a jury and is not mandated by state law.
If you are a juvenile or parent of a juvenile who is facing charges for teenage and juvenile crime, incluing murder, drug, or other violent crime charges, it is imperative that you contact an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney today so that you can gain a better understanding of your options before it's too late.