We represent individuals in Virginia accused of all sorts of crimes, from misdemeanors to felonies. We help adults fight the criminal charges before them, and we also take great pride in helping juveniles accused of crimes in the state.
Juveniles can face the same criminal accusations as adults, but it is generally important that kids are treated differently by the criminal justice system. Being convicted of a criminal offense can have a long-lasting, life-changing impact on the well-being and futures of children. That reality likely played into a recent Supreme Court decision regarding sentencing for juveniles.
In 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that juveniles could not be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. That in itself was groundbreaking, but the ruling left open a gray area of which some states took advantage. The loophole was that the justices hadn't clarified if the sentencing limits applied to past cases.
This week, the justices made that important clarification, ruling that the limit does apply retroactively. This doesn't necessarily mean that all inmates who are serving life sentences for crimes they committed as a juvenile must be released; it meant that those cases must be reevaluated. The defendants must be given a chance to prove that they are deserving of their release.
Hope is an invaluable aspect of life for anyone, whether they have been convicted of a crime or not. Giving a minor no chance at release is a way of taking away hope and a reason for that person to try to become a better person while serving his or her time.
This Supreme Court ruling applies to all states, including Virginia. Juveniles who are serving life sentences or who might be tried in such serious cases in the future now at least have a bit more hope that there might be a light at the end of the criminal justice tunnel.