May 19, 2010 By Wallin & Klarich

In Graham v. Florida, No. 08-7412, the United States Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment bars sentences of life without parole for juveniles not convicted of a homicide offense. The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

In Graham, Graham was 17 years old when he participated with two 20 year olds in an armed and violent home invasion robbery. When he was 16, he had been convicted of participating in an armed burglary and robbery in which a restaurant manager was beaten. That prior offense had a maximum possible penalty of life imprisonment. Graham was given probation. However, after his second offense, the judge revoked his probation and imposed the maximum life sentence for the offense he committed when he was 16. The state of Florida abolished parole, so this means he was sentenced to prison for life without the possibility of parole.

The United States Supreme Court found that sentencing a juvenile to prison for life without the possibility of parole was not proportional for a non-homicide crime. Therefore, this sentence violated the Eighth Amendment and is unconstitutional.

This ruling impacts California law. Before the court’s ruling, California law made it possible for a juvenile to be sentenced to a life term in prison without the possibility of parole for crimes such as kidnapping and robbery. This is now unconstitutional.

If you or a loved one is a juvenile and is facing a criminal charge, it is important that you speak with an experienced juvenile law attorney. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience in handling all types of juvenile crimes. We are constantly researching the law to keep our clients informed with the most up-to-date law that may affect their case. Our clients, no matter how young or old, get the respect and quality representation they deserve. Call us today at (888) 749-0034 or contact us through our website at We will be there when you call.

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