Eighth Amendment Prohibits Sentencing Juveniles to Life without Parole for Non-Homicide Crimes
In Graham v. Florida, No. 08-7412, the Supreme Court reversed defendant's life sentence without the possibility of parole for violating the term of probation related to a burglary offense, holding that the Eighth Amendment's Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause does not permit a juvenile offender to be sentenced to life in prison without parole for a nonhomicide crime.
The Court summarized the issue as follows: "The issue before the Court is whether the Constitution permits a juvenile offender to be sentenced to life in prison without parole for a nonhomicide crime. The sentence was imposed by the State of Florida. Petitioner challenges the sentence under the Eighth Amendment's Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, made applicable to the States by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Robinson v. California, 370 U. S. 660 (1962)."
The Court concluded as follows: "The Constitution prohibits the imposition of a life without parole sentence on a juvenile offender who did not commit homicide. A State need not guarantee the offender eventual release, but if it imposes a sentence of life it must provide him or her with some realistic opportunity to obtain release before the end of that term."
- Full Text of Graham v. Florida, No. 08-7412
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