FL House passes revamp of juvenile sentencing

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Posted at 10:06 PM, Apr 01, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-10 10:39:53-04

Tallahassee, Fla. (WTXL) - On Tuesday, the Florida House passed a juvenile sentencing bill that would change the law in cases of murder and other serious felonies. 

HB 7035 was the product of two U.S. Supreme Court decisions that dealt with life sentences for juvenile offenders. The sponsor of the bill Rep. James Grant, (R)-Tampa, said lawmakers need to pass a bill or the Florida Supreme Court will end up deciding the sentencing issues.

"I believe we have landed in a good spot,'' Grant said.

In Graham v. Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court during a 2010 ruling banned life sentences without a "meaningful opportunity" for release for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes. Then  in a 2012 ruling on Miller v. Alabama, the high court barred mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of murder. Juveniles can still face life sentences in such cases, but judges must weigh criteria such as the offenders' maturity and the nature of the crimes before imposing sentence.

The House bill calls for judicial hearings and sentencing standards that would vary depending on the nature of the crimes.

Rep. Darryl Rouson, (D) St. Petersburg, said he doesn't believe the bill goes far enough to protect juveniles from harsh sentences, but he said it is an improvement.

The Senate version (SB 384) of the bill is expected to be heard on the Senate floor later this week.

Portions of this report were provided courtesy of News Service Florida.