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Change on the way for life in prison sentencing of juveniles

Mandatory sentencing guidelines are a set of legal statutes that are applied to certain crimes. These laws require that a specific minimum sentence must be applied when a person is convicted of certain crimes. While mandatory sentences are often applied to drug charges, they can also be found in sentencing for serious adult and juvenile crimes. The state of Florida has particularly strict mandatory sentencing guidelines, and has even gone so far as to automatically sentence juveniles convicted of murder to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

That mandatory sentence, at least, is about to change. Last year, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that no state could sentence a juvenile to life in prison automatically. The high court stated that although it was still constitutional to sentence teenagers to life in prison without parole, the decision would have to come from the judge, who must consider the teenager's age, immaturity and other mitigating factors.

The ruling comes as a relief for the Florida teenagers who were automatically sentenced to life in prison, without the input of the judge's opinion. These people will now be given a new, possibly shorter sentence.

Recently, a three-judge panel in Tallahassee ruled that a 19-year-old man will receive a new sentencing hearing after he received an automatic life sentence for a stabbing incident three years ago. It is unclear what the man's new sentence will be.

Everyone has the potential to turn their lives around. Though serious crimes do demand strict punishment, a shorter sentence that promotes rehabilitation is often more beneficial than lengthy incarceration, both for the juvenile, and for society. There are a number of rehabilitative possibilities for juveniles; those accused of crimes can speak to their defense attorney for more information about their options.

Source: WTVY-TV, "Change in FFL Courts Sentencing Juveniles to Life in Prison," Jan. 4, 2013

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