This week, Florida’s state Senate Criminal Justice Committee approved a bill that could establish new minimum and maximum juvenile sentencing standards within the state.
Under Senate Bill 1350 (SB 1350), juvenile offenders convicted of murder may be given a minimum sentence of 50 years behind bars, while young people convicted of non-murder offenses would have maximum sentences of 50 years.
The bill, approved by a 4-2 vote, also leaves room for judges to give life sentences for juvenile offenders charged with murder, pending outcomes from a review that takes into consideration several factors, including the nature of the offense and the offender’s mental competence. Upon rejecting a life sentence, SB 1350 would require state judges to impose the 50-year minimum sentence.
According to The Ledger.com, the proposal has the backing of both the Florida Sheriffs Association and state prosecutors.
More than 300 juvenile inmates could be impacted if the bill becomes law, among them about 40 that are still waiting to be resentenced following 2010’s Graham v. Florida decision, which declared non-murder, juvenile life without parole sentences to be unconstitutional.
Several critics of the measure have called the proposal excessive. Nancy Daniels, a representative for the Florida Public Defenders Association, said that while she believes there are particular gaps in Florida’s sentencing laws, defense lawyers in the state would be more open to the proposal if it included provisions for periodic reviews. Additionally, Daniels believes that final evaluations of convicted juveniles should not take place at original sentencing, but 10-to-15 years afterwards.
“We think the hearing should be down the line,” she told The Ledger. “You don’t know what their potential is for rehabilitation, remorse, maturity and other things that are factors.”