Sentencing of juvenile offenders has been a topic many courts have wrestled with in recent years.
In January 2016, in Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718 (2016), the United States Supreme
Court held that its ban on mandatory sentencing of juvenile offenders to life without parole is retroactive, making many juvenile offenders eligible for resentencing.
Four years ago, in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012), the Court held that mandatory life without parole sentences for juvenile homicide offenders is a form of cruel and unusual punishment. While the Court did not place a blanket ban on such sentences, it stated that only the juvenile offenders whose “crime[s] reflects irreparable corruption” will receive a life without parole sentence. Before sentencing, the court must take into account how children are different than adults, and how those differences do not support sentencing juveniles to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Michigan enacted M.C.L. 769.25a to guide attorneys through resentencing procedures. It states that all prisoners serving life sentences for an offense that occurred before the individual was 18 years old are eligible for resentencing under Miller. Additionally, prosecutors in each county were required to file a motion seeking imposition of life without parole within 180 days of the Montgomery decision. If the prosecutor failed to do so for a particular defendant, then the defendant must be resentenced to a term of years. The term of years must be between 25 years and 40 years, and the maximum term is 60 years. M.C.L. 769.25(9). The statute also states that Miller defendants who have already served at least 20 years in prison will have priority for scheduling a resentencing hearing.
Defense attorneys working on these cases should begin collecting evidence, prison records, psychological evaluations, and other relevant material that demonstrates the offender’s progress and growth during their incarceration. Additionally, defense attorneys should assume they would conduct full Miller hearings in front of a judge or jury.
SADO and individual law firms, such as Willey & Chamberlain, represent offenders who are eligible for a Miller hearing. For questions about juvenile sentencing or to learn more about the attorneys at Willey & Chamberlain, please contact us here call us at 616.458.2212.