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Across the United States, inmates convicted of crimes requiring mandatory life sentences in their youth and their lawyers are preparing for new sentencing hearings. After last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, all inmates who were sentenced as juveniles to life in prison without parole are eligible to be re-sentenced. A 2012 Supreme Court decision had decided that mandatory life sentences for juveniles violated the Constitution, and their 6-3 decision in January extended those same considerations to those prisoners previously automatically sentenced to life in prison.
According to the Court, this ensures that young offenders who mature and come to learn from their crimes do not receive a disproportionate sentence in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Under the 2012 ruling some prisoners had already gotten new hearings, but others were not grandfathered into the ruling. Now these prisoners will get another chance at a new hearing.
Many have expressed concern that this ruling will lead to a large number of prisoners being released, but in reality, this is unlikely to happen. Firstly, few prisoners whom this ruling applies to remain in jail without having had the chance at a new sentencing hearing—albeit there are several thousand across the country.
More importantly, not all prisoners who get new sentencing hearings will be released. Some may get a reduced sentence, but will still have time to serve. While those inmates automatically given life without parole will be given new hearings, they do not necessarily get new sentences either. The ruling allows the states to uphold life sentences if they still see it as a just sentence. This means that those prisoners who have not shown remorse or who committed particularly heinous murders are unlikely to get a reduced sentence. In the meantime, these prisoners await their new hearings with anticipation.
Here in Ohio, no crimes have a mandatory sentence of life without parole, even if the perpetrator is over 18. Still, those convicted of murder—or any other felony—in Ohio face serious consequences if convicted. If you are arrested for a crime, you need to take the charges seriously, because while Ohio sentencing laws have become less rigid in recent years, crimes have not become less harshly prosecuted. If you’re facing charges in the Columbus area, call the Columbus criminal defense attorneys at Luftman, Heck, and Associates right away at to find out how we may be able to help in a free consultation on your case.