A juvenile offender (a person who committed an offense before the age of 18 years) can be tried as an adult and will be subject to adult punishments, with some restrictions. Juveniles cannot be executed and they cannot be mandatorily confined to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Justice Kagen of the United States Supreme Court stated for a majority of the Court in Miller v. Alabama, that a mandatory life sentence for a juvenile violates the 8th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution. In other words, life without hope should be unconstitutional for juveniles.
Prosecutors have persisted in seeking consecutive, fixed term (non-LWOP) sentences for juveniles in cases where the juvenile is held as an adult. These sentences may make release from prison just as impossible as a life without possibility of parole sentence. The question that we will address here is whether or not the 8th Amendment requires a meaningful opportunity for release for any juvenile.2 Alternatively, does the Constitution simply require a sentence that does not expressly prohibit release on parole as a matter of law notwithstanding the fact that the term of years makes any release impossible? Put yet another way, can a juvenile be sentenced to a non-LWOP term of years but to so many years that she or he has no hope for release?
- Juvenile law,
- liffe sentences,
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