It’s probably hard for some people to imagine that a decision made as a teenager could irrevocably disrupt the course of a person’s life. Young people are notorious for making uninformed decisions when it comes to a significant number of choices. Which, when you think about it, makes a lot of sense. The teenage brain is still developing; even when a young person is brought up in a stable household with loving parents who afford teens every opportunity in life, poor judgment can prevail.
In 2010, a U.S. Supreme Court decision made it unlawful to sentence a juvenile to life without parole for committing most crimes, with the one exception being murder. Life sentences deny an opportunity for young people to learn from their mistakes. Last year, California passed, and the governor signed legislation designed to protect young people caught up in the criminal justice system, including SB 394, SB 395, and AB 1308.
All three pieces of legislation are essential; especially SB 394 which gives minors sentenced to life without parole the opportunity to earn parole after 24 years of incarceration. SB 394, along with the 2010 Supreme Court decision offered a glimmer of hope to a significant number of young people serving long sentences for their criminal deeds.
California Supreme Court Sides With Reform
Toward the end of last month, the California Supreme Court decided two sentences relevant to this topic. In a 4-3 decision, Supreme Court justices found that 50 years to life for one defendant and 58 years to life for the other violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, The Mercury News reports. Juvenile sentences need to consider a youth offender’s capacity for rehabilitation, says California Supreme Court Associate Justice Goodwin Liu.
“Even assuming defendants’ parole eligibility dates are within their expected lifespans, the chance for release would come near the end of their lives,” Liu said. “Even if released, they will have spent the vast majority of adulthood in prison.”
The cases the Supreme Court decided on, go back to 2012, when two 16-year-olds were charged as adults and convicted of kidnapping and raping two teenage girls in San Diego County, according to the article. The court’s decision means a lower court will have to re-sentence the, now, young adults.
“The majority describes these ages as falling ‘near the end’ of a person’s life, language that suggests that fulfillment at such a juncture is well-nigh impossible. The millions of productively employed senior citizens would beg to differ,” said Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, in his dissenting decision.
Criminal Defense Attorney
If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges, the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower can help. Attorney Brower has over thirty years of experience and is well respected across the state of California. Please contact us today.