St. Petersburg, Florida: Juvenile Sentencing

The United State Supreme Court decided several years ago that life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles – IN NON MURDER CASES ONLY – is cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eight Amendment. In Graham v. Florida, a 16 year old was sentenced as an adult to 3 years of probation for various felony charges. He violated his probation, by committing new crimes, and the judge sentenced him to the MAXIMUM on one of the charges which was life. (The charge was Burglary)

Florida does not have parole.  Executive clemency is next to impossible to get. So the kid has no chance of ever getting out of prison. The Supreme Court said the inability for a juvenile, who has less maturity than an adult, to NEVER be released from prison for a non-homicide crime amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment” and thus said the kid must be resentenced. (If anyone knows how that went, let me know)

Recently, the Second DCA, wrote a conflicted opinion about a sentence given to a 13 year old for armed kidnapping, rape, robbery, and a slew of other charges. The kid was first sentenced in Pinellas County and given 27 years. Having committed very similar crimes in Hillsborough, he was given 65 years, to run consecutive to the 27 years. (Consecutive means after he finishes his first 27 years, then he starts the 65 years) The kid’s argument on appeal is that 92 years in prision is the functional equivalant of life without parole and thus violates the Eight Amendment. (See Jose Walle v. State) But the 2nd DCA said that because he had not been sentenced to “life”, technically he didn’t fit into the category mentioned by the US Supreme Court in Graham v. Florida. So they have asked the Florida Supreme Court for an answer.

The problem with this case is that one never knows if one or more of those charges might get thrown out on appeal. For example, if the Hillsborough charges are somehow overturned on appeal, the kid would only have 27 years – which is a legal sentence. (In this kid’s case, it probably doesn’t matter anyway since he’s an illegal immigrant and will be deported whether he dies in prison or not. But that’s another issue for another day.)

If anyone is still reading – and your child has been arrested for any FELONY charge – you have to hire Fighter Law right away.  Do not wait for a “court date” – it’s too late then – ONCE JUVENILE CHARGES ARE FILED IN ADULT COURT – THERE IS NO WAY TO GET THEM BACK INTO JUVENILE COURT AND PRISON IS HIGHLY PROBABLE. Just call me – even if you think you can’t afford an attorney. Consultations are free on criminal cases.

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