Juveniles serving life in prison for committing crimes other than murder may soon get a chance to have their sentences reduced. Lawmakers have to make changes to the way juveniles are sentenced because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
In 2010, the high court ruled that offenders under the age of 18 cannot be given life in prison if they don’t kill anyone. Florida has dozens of inmates who were impacted by that ruling. So, Rep. Mike Weinstein, R-Orange Park, sponsored a bill (HB 5/SB 212)) that gives juvenile offenders a chance to be resentenced once they’ve served 25 years and met other requirements.
“We had to do a bill like this to enable us to seek a life sentence in the courtroom,” Weinstein told the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee Wednesday. “Those that were sentenced before this bill are now under an illegal sentence because the Supreme Court says you can’t do it.”
Senator Ronda Storms, R-Brandon, prefers a tiered system that would make the least violent offenders eligible for resentencing sooner than those who committed the worst crimes. Storms wondered why the juvenile who assaulted and permanently injured a young woman in her district should get another chance at freedom, asking Weinstein, “How can I face this constituent and these parents and say I think this guy should get out in 15 years?”
Several lawmakers are working to add a tiered approach to resentencing; otherwise, they say they won’t support the bill.