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Court Deems 22-Year Juvenile Prison Sentence Unconstitutional

Posted on in Criminal Law

Court Deems 22-Year Juvenile Prison Sentence UnconstitutionalIllinois criminal law requires courts to add 15 years to a prison sentence if the defendant had a firearm while committing the offense. However, Illinois amended its law regarding juvenile sentencing in 2016 to allow a court to disregard the mandatory sentencing enhancement if it believes it is not appropriate for a juvenile offender. The law instructs the courts to consider:

  • The juvenile defendant’s maturity and ability to consider risks;
  • Outside influences on the defendant;
  • Neglect or abuse at the defendant’s home;
  • The defendant’s potential for rehabilitation;
  • The circumstances of the offense;
  • The role the defendant played in the offense;
  • Whether the defendant participated in his or her defense; and
  • The defendant’s criminal history.

Illinois prisoners have since appealed their juvenile criminal sentences, citing the new law. Courts have ruled that the law does not apply retroactively to juvenile offenders who were sentenced before the law went into effect. However, courts have granted resentencing for a few of these appeals, saying that the sentence was excessive for a juvenile case.

Recent Case

In People v. Barnes, the defendant appealed a 22-year prison sentence he received for an armed robbery he committed when he was 17. Fifteen of the years were mandatory because he had used an unloaded revolver during the robbery. The defendant argued that the 15-year firearms sentence was unconstitutional for a juvenile because it violates the Illinois Constitution’s proportionate penalties clause. The clause is the state’s equivalent to the eighth amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects defendants against cruel and unusual punishment for a crime. An Illinois appellate court agreed that the defendant’s sentence went against society’s “evolving standard of moral decency.” The court noted that the defendant:

  • Had no criminal history;
  • Did not physically harm anyone;
  • Expressed remorse for the incident;
  • Requested drug and alcohol treatment; and
  • Showed a high potential for rehabilitation.

The court sent the case back to the trial court for resentencing, with instructions to not include the mandatory firearms enhancement.

Contact a Crystal Lake Criminal Defense Attorney

Courts consider juveniles to be less culpable for their offenses because of their lack of maturity or control over their home environment. Courts will impose prison sentences for violent crimes but try to emphasize rehabilitation over punishment. A long prison sentence can prevent a juvenile offender from becoming a positive member of society. A McHenry County criminal defense attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can protect a juvenile defendant against disproportionate penalties. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.

Source: 

http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/Opinions/AppellateCourt/2018/5thDistrict/5140378.pdf

Illinois State Bar Association State Bar of Wisconsin Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce Illinois Trial Lawyers Association McHenry County Bar Association
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