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There are no easy answers when it comes to handing down a life sentence to a minor. Yet, this is an outcome that some juveniles in certain states have to face.

History of Life Sentences For Minors

In the early 2000s, the United States Supreme Court deemed that it was unconstitutional to give life sentences to juveniles without a chance for parole. It wasn’t until the Montgomery v. Louisiana case in 2016 that the Court extended this decision to those juveniles who had already been sentenced before the ruling in the previous decade.

How Kids Get Life Sentences

Children, usually aged 14 and above, can be prosecuted as an adult in some states. The decision to do so is based on a variety of factors, such as the severity of the crime, prior juvenile offenses, mental health and the ability to understand right from wrong. If found guilty, the minor can face a life sentence and possible parole.

Life Sentencing Alternatives

Due to the severity and gravity of the decision to sentence a minor to life in prison, some states have implemented alternative sentencing laws in order to give children a chance to prove they can reform. These types of sentences may include:

    • Youthful offender: This sentence will sentence the minor shorter terms and/or allow for a possible sentence reduction.
    • Transfer case: This type of sentencing allows the minor to be released sooner with proper rehabilitation and parole.
    • Early release: Depending on the severity of the crime, the minor may be eligible for early release.

The Reality

Unfortunately, despite the 2016 ruling, many juveniles remain incarcerated for life. As a result, it is important for juveniles and their parents to thoroughly understand their legal rights, as well as what kind of sentencing alternatives are available in their state.

Additionally, it is also important to seek out specialized attorneys specializing in juvenile justice and to stay informed on any changes or developments in juvenile justice sentencing laws.

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