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Juvenile lifers might be resentenced

In Florida, some juveniles who are charged with serious crimes are tried as adults. In some cases, juveniles have been sentenced to life sentences without the possibility of parole. The federal government has reviewed tough sentencing of juveniles and has made some changes following two Supreme Court decisions. This means that juveniles who have received life without parole sentences may request that those sentences be reviewed.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that sentencing juveniles to life without parole for homicide offenses is cruel and unusual punishment and constitutionally impermissible in all but the most reprehensible cases. This ruling does not mean that juveniles can never be sentenced to life without parole, but it does mean that such sentences are supposed to be rare and reserved for those offenders who are deemed to be irredeemable.

While no-parole sentences are still possible for juvenile offenders in Florida, they must only be given after judges consider the circumstances of the crimes, the brain development of the offenders, their ages and their potentials for rehabilitation. Offenders who were juveniles when they were sentenced may also request reviews of their sentences and the possibility of being given life sentences with the possibility of parole.

Minors who are facing serious juvenile charges may have their cases transferred to the adult criminal justice system. Being charged in adult court may result in very long terms of imprisonment. Experienced criminal defense attorneys who practice law in both the juvenile and adult systems may work to try to keep their clients' cases from being transferred to adult court. They may also try to negotiate for their clients to obtain pleas to lesser charges or capped terms. In some cases, counsel may be able to win dismissals of the charges against their clients by conducting thorough investigations and building strong defenses to the allegations.

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Andrew M. Coffey has been recognized as a Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer by the Florida Bar. Certification is the highest level of recognition by The Florida Bar of the competency and experience of attorneys in the areas of law approved for certification by the Supreme Court of Florida.

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