Based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, juveniles who were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole may now be considered for parole.
It can be said that due to their maturity levels, and other factors, teens often do not understand the consequences of their actions. When juveniles in Colorado are convicted of serious offenses, such as murder charges, however, the penalties may cost them their futures. This is because, even as minors, they may be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Currently, there are more than 2,300 people serving mandatory life in prison sentences for offenses they committed as juveniles, according to NBC News. Following a recent ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States, there may be hope for those who are serving such sentences.
Barring automatic life sentences for young offenders
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down mandatory life in prison without the possibility of parole sentences for young offenders. The Washington Post reported that the Supreme Court ruled that judges must consider the "mitigating qualities of youth" when deciding prison terms for young offenders. The ruling did not specify, however, whether it was applicable retroactively to those who have already been sentenced. Colorado was one of seven states that refused to apply the ruling.
Extending the 2012 ruling
Recently, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a man who was seeking the right to be considered for parole. In 1963, the man was convicted of murdering a sheriff's deputy in Louisiana. According to the Washington Post, the man, who was 17-years-old at the time, reportedly panicked and shot the law enforcement officer when he met him while skipping school. The deputy was on truant patrol at the time.
This most recent ruling in effect extends the 2012 ruling. The majority opinion stipulated that juveniles in such cases must be allowed to show that they were not irreversibly corrupt, despite their crimes.
Implications on past and future sentencing
The Supreme Court's recent ruling does not mean that the court can no longer order life without the possibility of parole for juveniles who are convicted of murder. Rather, the court upheld its previous opinions, which deemed that such sentences should be reserved for especially heinous crimes. Therefore, these sentences should rarely be imposed. Furthermore, those who were previously convicted as minors and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole must be given a new sentence or considered for parole.
Looking to the future
The consequences of criminal convictions may be life changing for many in Colorado, and elsewhere. For juveniles who are convicted of murder, however, the penalties may take away their futures. Thus, those who have been charged with such crimes, or other serious offenses, may benefit from obtaining legal representation. An attorney may look out for their interests and help them to build a strong criminal defense .