Legal Pleadings:

Motion To Correct Illegal Sentence


COME NOW the Defendant, by and through his undersigned counsel, and pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. Pro, 3.800(a), Article I § 17 of the Florida Constitution, the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and applicable decisional law, and respectfully moves the Court to review the minimum mandatory sentences imposed in the referenced cases. As grounds, the Defendant states the following:

1. On February 26, the Defendant was arrested in the referenced cases.
2. At the time of the offenses, the Defendant was 17 years old.
3. On March 25, the State direct filed his cases to adult circuit court.
4. On March 23, the Defendant pled guilty and was sentenced as follows:
a. Case #1: pled guilty to armed robbery (F1) and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (F3); adjudicated guilty and sentenced to 10 years mandatory and 3 years mandatory, concurrent, pursuant to §775.087(2)(a)1, Fla. Stat.
b. Case #2: pled guilty to armed robbery (F1); adjudicated guilty and sentenced to 10 years mandatory, pursuant to §775.087(2)(a)1, Fla. Stat., consecutive to Case #1;
c. Case #3: pled guilty to armed robbery (F1) and aggravated battery (F2); adjudicated guilty and sentenced to 10 years mandatory per count, pursuant to §775.087(2)(a)1, Fla. Stat., concurrent to each other, and consecutive to Case #1 and Case #2.
5. The Defendant did not receive an individualized sentencing hearing, and his aggregate sentence is 30 years, mandatory, and provides no opportunity for release based on maturation or rehabilitation.

Over the past decade, the United States Supreme Court has consistently held that juveniles have constitutional rights to sentencing that adults do not. See Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005); Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010); Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012). In Roper, for example, the Court abolished capital punishment for juvenile offenders, nothing that juveniles have a lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility. Roper, 543 U.S. at 569. Furthermore, the Court found that juveniles were more susceptible to negative influences and outside pressures than were adult offenders. Id.
In Graham, the Court held that the Eighth Amendment prohibited a sentence of life without the opportunity of parole for juvenile non-homicide offenders. Graham, 560 U.S. at 82. In reaching its decision, the Court found that juvenile offenders must have “some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.” Id. at 75. Graham’s mandate does not guarantee a juvenile’s release; rather, it guarantees that they receive an individualized sentencing determination. Miller extended Graham to homicide offenses. Miller, 132 S. Ct. at 2475. In Miller, the Court found that none of what Graham “said about children – about their distinctive (and transitory) mental traits and environmental vulnerabilities – is crime specific.” Id. at 2465. The Court instead emphasized “that the distinctive attributes of youth diminish the penological justifications for imposing the harshest sentences on juvenile offenders, even when they commit terrible crimes.” Id.

In Landrum v. State, 192 So. 3d 459 (Fla. 2016), the Florida Supreme Court expressly extended the holdings in Miller and Montgomery v. Alabama, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016) to juveniles convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to non-mandatory lengthy term-of-year sentences. In deciding Landrum, the Court, rejected the State’s argument that Landrum’s sentence was constitutional because it was discretionary, and stated the following:

We conclude that at the heart of Miller, as further amplified in Montgomery, is the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of imposing certain punishments on juvenile offenders that fail to consider a juvenile’s ‘lessened culpability and greater capacity for change’. Therefore, the exercise of a sentencing court’s discretion when sentencing juvenile offenders must be informed by consideration of the juvenile offender’s ‘youth and its attendant circumstances’ as articulated in Miller and now provided for in section 921.1401. (emphasis added). Without this individualized sentencing consideration, a sentencer is unable to distinguish between juvenile offenders whose crimes ‘reflect transient immaturity’ and those whose crimes reflect ‘irreparable corruption.’ Failing to make this distinction, otherwise, would mean life sentences for juveniles would not be exceedingly rare, but possibly commonplace. Landrum at 446 (internal citations omitted.)
The directive from the Florida Supreme Court to the trial Court could not be clearer – children are different and should not be sentenced as though they were adults. The court stated:
As a sixteen year old convicted of second-degree murder, Landrum faced a sentence of between 22.3 years and life imprisonment for that offense. This was the same sentencing range she would have been subject to if she had been an adult… And most certainly, the sentencing court did not consider why, although a life sentence for a juvenile offender should be exceedingly ‘rare’ and ‘uncommon’, Landrum should receive such an uncommon and exceedingly rare life sentence, rather than a 22.3 year guideline sentence, or even one that departed downward from the guideline sentence.

Landrum v. State, 192 So. 3d 459, 457-468 (Fla. 2016).
The court urged departure from the minimum guideline sentence for a juvenile charged with second degree murder because juvenile sentencing is meant to be individualized, with consideration of enumerated factors. It is not meant to be a mandatory sentence that applies equally to juvenile and adult offenders.

Minimum mandatory sentences, as applied to juveniles, violate the Eighth Amendment. See generally Krause, Lindsey, One Size Does Not Fit All: The Need for a Complete Abolition of Mandatory Sentences for Juveniles in Response to Roper, Graham, and Miller, 33 Law & INEQ. 481, 483 (2015) (“A complete individualization of sentencing practices for juveniles is the best way to adequately protect the rights of juveniles in light of recent Supreme Court jurisprudence, our modern understanding of juvenile culpability, and the struggles faced by juveniles in the criminal justice system.”).

Such sentences force judges to foreclose the prospect of an individual’s maturation and rehabilitation and sentence a juvenile offender to predetermined number of years, condemning him to that term of years regardless of what rehabilitative progress might potentially be made. Under such a regime, a juvenile offender who becomes an exemplary inmate and is rehabilitated after learning from the mistakes of his youth would not be afford the constitutional protections guaranteed by Graham. Though the United States Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of minimum mandatory sentences as applied to adults, it specifically distinguished juvenile offenders from adults. See Miller, 132 S. Ct. at 2470 (“Harmelin had nothing to do with children and did not purport to apply its holding to the sentencing of juvenile offenders. We have by now held on multiple occasions that a sentencing rule permissible for adults may not be so for children.”).

Consistent with the United States Supreme Court’s jurisprudence which holds that juveniles are constitutionally different for purposes of sentencing, other Courts across the nation have recognized that all minimum mandatory sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional. See State of Iowa v. Lyle, 854 N. W. 2d 378 (2014. In Lyle, the Iowa Supreme Court held as follows:
[u]pon exercise of our independent judgment, as we are required to do under the constitutional test, we conclude that the sentencing of juveniles according to statutorily mandatory minimums does not adequately serve the legitimate penological objectives in light of the child’s categorically diminished culpability. First and foremost, the time when a seventeen-year-old could seriously be considered to have adult-like culpability has passed. Of course, scientific data and opinions of medical experts, provide compelling and increasingly ineluctable case that form a neurodevelopment standpoint, juvenile culpability does not rise to the adult-like standard the mandatory minimum provision […] presupposes.
Id. at 398 (citations omitted) (emphasis added).

The Iowa Supreme Court held that “[m]andatory minimum sentencing results in cruel and unusual punishment due to the differences between children and adults.” Id. at 402. The Court in Lyle acknowledge that not all juveniles would deserve the reduced sentences, but nonetheless, held that the sentences imposed must be done on a case-by-case basis taking into consideration each juvenile’s individual circumstances. Id. at 403 (“Some juveniles will deserve mandatory minimum imprisonment, but others may not. A statute that sends all juvenile offenders to prison for a minimum period of time under all circumstances simply cannot satisfy the standards of decency and fairness.”).

Just as the United States Supreme Court and the Iowa Supreme Court recognize that juveniles are different and that juvenile offenders require individualized sentencing, so has the Florida Supreme Court. See, e.g., Horsley v. State, 160 So. 3d 393 (Fla. 2015); Falcon v. State, 162 So. 3d 954 (Fla. 2015); Henry v. State, 175 So 3d 675 (Fla. 2015); Gridine v. State, 175 So. 3d 672 (Fla. 2015); and Kelsey v. State, 206 So. 3d 5 (Fla. 2016).

In Montgomery v. State, 230 So. 3d 1256 (Fla. 5th DCA 2017) the court held that a juvenile offender sentenced to a minimum mandatory sentence of more than 20 years due to § 775.087(2) (10-20-Life), was entitled to review of his sentence because, pursuant to Graham, the courts must provide nonhomicide juvenile offenders individual sentencing hearings, which provide them an opportunity for release based on demonstrated maturation and rehabilitation. The court stated that the juvenile sentencing statutes and the 10-20-Life statute must be read in pari materia. Id. at 1262.

The Defendant’s minimum mandatory sentences are unconstitutional because it deprived the sentencing judge the discretion to make an individualized sentencing decision based on the individual characteristics and circumstances of the defendant. This is contrary to the letter and spirit of Graham, Miller, and Landrum because it mandates that the sentencing judge treat the defendant exactly the same as every other offender who qualifies for minimum mandatory sentences under §775.087(2)(a)1, Fla. Stat., regardless of the individual qualities and characteristics of the defendant.

Beyond the fact that the application of 10-20-Life eviscerates Graham and Miller’s requirement for individualized sentencing for juveniles, the statute precedes Chapter 2014-220, which was specifically intended to provide courts with guidance on how to sentence juveniles charged with specific crimes. Second degree murder is a first degree felony, that is punishable by a term of years not exceeding life. Chapter 2014-220 does not mandate a minimum sentence for first degree felonies, leaving in place the court’s complete discretion in sentencing juveniles. Clearly, the Legislature could have imposed a minimum sentence for such offences – for instance a juvenile is subject to a mandatory forty year sentence if he is adjudicated guilty of first degree murder and actually killed or attempted to kill a person. Because Chapter 2014-220 supersedes 10-20-Life and because it does not, by its plain language or purpose, authorize minimum mandatory sentences for juveniles, minimum mandatory sentences cannot apply to juveniles.

Finally, the new legislation does not address sentencing in general, but is specific to the sentencing of persons who commit certain degrees of felony offenses while they were juveniles. See generally Medenhall v. State, 48 So. 3d 740, 748 (Fla. 2010) (“it is a well settled rule of statutory construction… that a special statute covering a particular subject matter is controlling over a general statutory provision covering the same and other subjects in general terms. In this situation ‘the statute relating to the particular part of the general subject will operate as an exception to or qualification of the general terms of the more comprehensive statute to the extent only of repugnancy, if any’”).

The imposition of minimum mandatory sentences is the antithesis of the individualized consideration required by Graham and Miller, as it treated the Defendant exactly like every other offender – juvenile or adult – who is subject to enhanced minimum mandatory penalties under 775.087(2)(a)(1)-(3) without regard to the individual circumstances specific to him. This is in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, § 17 of the Florida Constitution.

WHEREFORE, the Defendant, respectfully requests this Honorable Court to grant him an individualized sentencing hearing in this case.