Motion To Declare Florida State Unconstitutional
MOTION TO DECLARE FL STAT. UNCONSTITUTIONAL (JUVENILE RESENTENCING)
COMES NOW the Defendant, through counsel pursuant to Rule 3.190 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, moves this Honorable Court for an Order Declaring § 775.082(1)(b)1, Florida Statutes, as applied to the above-named Juvenile Defendant, to be unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, pursuant to the holding in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012). As grounds states:
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
1. This Honorable Court granted the Defendant resentencing subject to Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012); Falcon v. State, 162 So. 3d 954 (Fla. 2015); and Atwell v. State, 197 So. 3d 1040 (Fla. 2016).
2. In response to the United States Supreme Court and Florida Supreme Court decisions regarding constitutionality of statutory schemes for sentencing juveniles prosecuted as adults, the Florida legislature enacted § 775.082, Fla. Stat. (2016). The Court will be applying this statute in re-sentencing the Defendant.
3. A subsection to the statute, 775.082(1)(b)1, Fla. Stat. (2016), sets a mandatory minimum sentence of (40) years for a child convicted of actually killing, intending to kill, or attempting to kill.
4. This mandatory minimum sentence for juveniles prosecuted as adults violates Miller and its progeny as well as the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
5. A legislative requirement of a mandatory minimum sentence for a juvenile is contrary to the entire premise underlying Miller. When sentencing a juvenile in adult court, the United States Supreme Court, Florida Supreme Court, and Florida legislature have enumerated a myriad of factors deemed relevant sentencing considerations, including not only the circumstances of the offense, but also the defendant’s youth, personal development, and personal history.
6. The Florida Legislature established an arbitrary term of (40) years as a minimum mandatory sentence and, thus, precluded the sentencing court from following the directives of the United States Supreme Court and Florida Supreme Court to consider the juvenile’s chronological age and its hallmark features (immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences, etc.), the juvenile’s family and home environment (including the effects of familial and peer pressure), as well as the circumstances of the homicide offense, including the extent of the juvenile’s participation in the conduct in order to craft an appropriate sentence.
7. The Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates a particular sentence for a juvenile, as it removes from the trial judge the ability to exercise its discretion and take into consideration the factors relevant to the defendant’s youth and attendant characteristics, as well as the circumstances of the homicide offense.
MEMORANDUM OF LAW AND ARGUMENT
Courts have an obligation to consider juveniles prosecuted as adults on a case-by-case basis, and sentences must account for their juvenile status and attendant diminished culpability. In Roper v. Simmons, 125 S. Ct. 1183 (2005), the United States Supreme Court held that the juvenile offenders’ “diminished culpability” weighed against imposing the death penalty because the penological justification for the death penalty applies to juvenile offenders with lesser force than adults. In Graham v. Florida, 130 S. Ct. 2011 (2010), the United States Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbids a sentence of life without parole for juvenile offenders convicted of non-homicide offenses. Both Roper and Graham emphasized that a juvenile’s lessened culpability and greater capacity for change require a sentencing court to consider the juvenile’s youth and attendant characteristics before determining that life without parole is a proportionate sentence. The plain reading of these cases makes it clear that an offender’s age is relevant to the Eighth Amendment; in determining an appropriate sentence, the trial judge must take into account the offender’s age, particular characteristics, and the circumstances of the offense.
In Miller, the United States Supreme Court reviewed two cases in which defendants were sentenced to mandatory terms of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for homicide offenses committed while they were juveniles. The Supreme Court reversed the sentences based upon the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Although the Supreme Court did not categorically foreclose a trial judge’s ability to impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole on a juvenile homicide offender, the Supreme Court made it clear that before such a sentence can be lawfully imposed, the trial court must consider the fact that the offender was a child, that juvenile offenders are different from adult offenders, and how those differences weight against imposing a harsh mandatory sentence (Id at 2469). Although the Court did not address the issue of creating a categorical bar against mandatory sentences, it did emphasize that, given a child’s diminished culpability and heightened capacity for change, an appropriate sentence of mandatory life for a juvenile would be a rare occasion. (Id citing Roper v. Simmons).
In an attempt to make Florida’s statutory sentencing scheme for juveniles sentenced as adults comply with the Eighth Amendment as interpreted through Roper, Graham, and Miller, the Florida Legislature amended § 775.082 and created § 921.1401. Combined, these two sections create a sentencing scheme for juveniles convicted of murder in adult court. There are two sentencing options for juveniles convicted of homicide: life without the possibility of parole or a mandatory sentence of no less than 40 years. A mandatory sentencing scheme is inconsistent with the rule and rationale announced in Miller and violates the United States Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The legislature, through § 921.1401(2), codified the factors a trial judge must consider when determining which of two sentencing options to apply. However, Miller requires “individualized sentencing for defendants facing the most serious penalties,” Miller at 2460, where the trial judge hears evidence of the offender’s youth, personal background, and circumstances of the offense. Under the current sentencing scheme, the trial judge is given the relevant factors to consider in § 921.1401(2). Having heard such evidence, the sentencing court is in a position to exercise its informed discretion and determine the appropriate sentence. However, because § 775.082(1)(b)1 calls for “a term of imprisonment of at least 40 years,” the sentencing authority lacks the ability to exercise judicial discretion and actually determine what the appropriate sentence should be in any given case. A 40-year mandatory minimum sentence effectively divests the trial court of any meaningful sentencing discretion. Regardless of what the sentencing authority finds with respect to the application of the sentencing factors set out in § 921.1401(2), the trial judge is bound by the dictates of § 775.082(1)(b)1, which calls for a minimum sentence of 40 years imprisonment. By establishing a mandatory minimum term of 40 years imprisonment, the legislature has effectively prevent the trial court from applying the sentencing factors relevant to youth as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court in Miller and determining the appropriate penalty.
Because children are constitutionally different from adults for purposes of sentencing, mandatory sentences which set an arbitrary minimum term of years for juveniles sentenced as adults violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and usual punishment. Trial judges sentencing juveniles in adult court must be allowed to take into account the factors relevant to the defendant’s youth and attendant characteristics, as well as the circumstances of the offense. A sentencing scheme which imposes a 40-year mandatory sentence violates the spirit of Miller and the Eighth Amendment.
Reflecting on their concern for proportionate punishment, the United States Supreme Court has adopted two strands of precedent. The first involves challenges to adult offenders subjected to a mandatory minimum sentence. The Court has upheld mandatory minimum sentences for adult offenders. See, Hamlin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957 (1991) (defendant sentenced to life without parole for possessing a large amount of cocaine); Ewing v. California, 538 U.S. 11 (2003) (Court rejected a challenge to a sentence of 25 years to life for the theft of a few golf clubs under California’s three-strike recidivist statute); Hutto v. Davis, 454 U.S. 370 (1982) (upheld a sentence of 40 years for possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute and distribution of marijuana). However, the second strand of precedent shows the Court’s intent there be a “categorical ban on sentencing practices based on mismatches between the culpability of a class of offenders and the severity of a penalty.” Miller at 2468. In other words, sentencing rules permissible for adults may not be so for children. “Our history is replete with laws and judicial recognition that children cannot be viewed simply as miniature adults.” Id. at 2470. The Court gave these reasons why children are to be treated different than adults for purposes of sentencing:
To start with, the first set of cases: Roper and Graham establish that children are constitutionally different from adults for purposes of sentencing. Because juveniles have diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform, they are less deserving of the most severe punishments. These cases relied on three significant gaps between juveniles and adults. First, children have a lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility, leading to recklessness, impulsivity, and heedless risk-taking; second, children are more vulnerable to negative influences and outside pressures, including from their family and peers; they have limited control over their own environment and lack the ability to extricate from horrific, crime-producing settings; and third, a child’s character is not as well formed as an adult’s; his traits are less fixed and his actions less likely to be evidence of irretrievable depravity. Id. at 2464 (citations omitted). The circumstances of youth, as expressed above in Miller, are apparent in the factors set forth in § 921.1401(2). However, the mandatory sentencing scheme set forth in § 775.082(1)(b)(1) divests the trial judge of all discretion in determining the appropriate sentence based upon consideration of those factors.
Although the Court in Miller did not categorically bar a penalty for a class of offenders or a type of crime, as it did in Roper and again in Graham for non-homicide offenders, Miller did make it clear that when sentencing a juvenile in adult court, the sentencing authority must follow a certain process that takes into consideration the offender’s youth and attendant circumstances. Thus, under the rule of law announced in Miller, a trial judge may impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole on a juvenile offender only after the court first accounts for how children are different as a class, the particular circumstances of the child and the child’s offense, and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing a juvenile to a lifetime in prison. Falcon v. State, 162 So. 3d 954, 959 (2015) (citing Miller).
Miller requires that juveniles convicted of homicide received an individualized sentencing designed to take into account the factors attendant to youth and this circumstances of the offense. Miller’s requirement of “individualized sentencing” has been recognized by the Florida Supreme Court in the case of Landrum v. State, 192 So. 3d 459 (Fla. 2016). In that case, the court said:
While Roper established a flat rule banning the death penalty for juvenile offenders, and Graham established a flat rule banning the imposition of a life sentence without parole for juvenile offenders who commit non-homicide offenses, Miller set out a different [rule] for [individualized sentencing] for homicide offenses. (Miller, 132 S. Ct. At 2466 n. 6) Miller’s rule of individualized sentencing for juvenile offenders is given effect through a hearing where youth and its attendant characteristics are separate those juveniles who may be sentenced to life without parole from those who may not. (Montgomery, 136 S. Ct. 735 (quoting Miller at 2460)). As the Supreme Court has explained, “The hearing does not replace, but rather gives effect to, Miller’s substantive holding that life without parole is an excessive sentence for children whose crimes reflect transient immaturity. (Emphasis supplied.)
Landrum, 192 So. 3d 459 (Fla. 2016). The individualized sentencing hearing mandated by Miller, and very recently again acknowledged by the Florida Supreme Court in Landrum, requires the sentencing authority to consider a juvenile’s youth and attendant characteristics before determining an appropriate sentence. An examination of these factors also carries with it the discretion to impose what is deemed by the sentencing court to be an appropriate sentence.
Mandatory penalties, by their very nature, do not allow for individualized sentencing contemplated in Miller and subsequent cases. The sentencing factors outlined in § 921.1401(2) serve no purpose if the court is not permitted to exercise its discretion and determine the appropriate sentence in a given case. Under the sentencing scheme set forth in § 775.082(1)(b)1, every juvenile convicted of a homicide offense will receive the same sentence of either life or 40 years in prison, regardless of mitigating evidence and the applicability of sentencing factors outlined by the Court in Miller or § 921.1401(2). Florida’s new sentencing scheme for juveniles convicted of murder undermines the premise of Miller, which emphasizes that the trial court must take into consideration the factors of youth, the characteristics of the specific offender, and the circumstances of the offense in arriving at its sentencing decision.
The mandatory minimum sentence of 40 years required under § 775.082(1)(b)1, Fla. Stat., violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The arbitrary creation of a 40-year mandatory sentence for a juvenile convicted of homicide undermines the rule of law and spirit of the law espoused in Miller and its progeny. Such mandatory minimums remove from the sentencing authority the discretion to determine an appropriate sentence.
Thus, even if Fla. Stat. § 775.082(1)(b)1 were to be found constitutional, the trial court must resentence the Defendant under Fla. Stat. § 775.082(1)(b)2.
WHEREFORE, the Defendant respectfully requests this Honorable Court to grant this motion to Declare § 775.082(1)(b)1, Fla. Stat. (2016) unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.