In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional for a law to impose a mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole upon a juvenile offender. In Miller v. Alabama, the court ruled that such laws violate the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishments.1
At the time of the case, the court left it an open question as to whether the ruling applied retroactively to those juvenile offenders already serving those kinds of sentences. Nearly four years later, the court revisited this question, and has declared that the 2012 ruling applies to those who were already serving sentences of life without the possibility of parole.
Montgomery v. Louisiana
In a 6-3 vote in January 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court determined in Montgomery v. Louisiana that the ruling in Miller must be applied to all juvenile offenders previously sentenced under mandatory life-without-parole sentencing laws. The case takes its name from Henry Montgomery, who was convicted in the murder of a police officer in 1963 when he was 17. Mr. Montgomery is now 69 years old.
The court’s opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, reflected on the Miller ruling, and noted that examples of juveniles whose criminal behavior is incapable of changing are exceedingly rare. He wrote, “A sentencer might encounter the rare juvenile offender who exhibits such irretrievable depravity that rehabilitation is impossible and life without parole is justified. But in light of ‘children’s diminished culpability and heightened capacity for change,’ Miller made clear that ‘appropriate occasions for sentencing juveniles to this harshest possible penalty will be uncommon.’”
Will Juvenile Offenders Go Free?
The court’s ruling does not mean that wardens across the country must unlock the prison cell of the more than 2,000 prisoners whose life sentences began as juveniles. What will happen instead is that states will have to review these cases and resentence these offenders.
Contact the Juvenile Law Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or a loved one is serving a life sentence without possibility of parole for a juvenile crime, Montgomery v. Louisiana means that you have the right to seek resentencing or review for parole. You will need the help of a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney who can make the case that you deserve to have a second chance at joining society as a free person. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 40 years of experience fighting for the rights of defendants. Let us help you, too. Contact us today for a free, no obligation phone consultation.
With offices in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, Victorville, West Covina, San Diego, Torrance and Sherman Oaks, there is an experienced criminal defense attorney available near you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.
1. Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. ___ (2012). href=”#ref1″>↩