Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

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Defendant, a juvenile, pleaded guilty to four counts of willful injury causing serious injury. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the district court sentenced Defendant to indeterminate sentences not to exceed ten years on each of the four counts to run consecutively for a maximum sentence of forty years. No mandatory minimum sentence was imposed, but because Defendant’s crime was a forcible felony, the sentencing judge was unable to consider a deferred judgment or probation as a sentencing option. Defendant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence, which the district court denied. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court, holding (1) the forcible felony sentencing statute, Iowa Code 907.3, is not unconstitutional as applied to juvenile offenders; and (2) in considering a motion to correct an illegal sentence, the district court is not required to conduct an individualized sentencing hearing as to all juveniles regardless of whether the sentence has a mandatory term of years. View "State v. Propps" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Guy Lucero was convicted by jury for multiple offenses arising from a drive-by shooting. He was tried as an adult. The trial court sentenced Lucero to consecutive term-of-years prison sentences for each count, aggravated as crimes of violence, resulting in an aggregate sentence of eighty-four years. The court of appeals affirmed Lucero’s convictions and sentences on direct appeal. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), that the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibited the imposition of a life without parole sentence on a juvenile non-homicide offender, concluding that states must “give defendants like Graham some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.” Subsequently, Lucero filed a motion pursuant to Rule 35(b) of the Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure seeking reduction of his sentence. As relevant here, Lucero argued that his sentence must be reduced under Graham to meet constitutional standards, because an eighty-four-year sentence imposed on a juvenile carried the same implications as a sentence of life without parole. The trial court denied the motion; the court of appeals affirmed. The Colorado Supreme Court determined "Graham" and "Miller" did not apply here, and therefore, did not invalidate Lucero's aggregate term-of-years sentence. The Court also rejected Lucero’s argument that the court of appeals erred in treating his claim as one under Rule 35(c). View "Lucero v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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In 2000, Atorrus Rainer was convicted by jury on two counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree assault, one count of first-degree burglary, one count of aggravated robbery, and crime of violence. He was seventeen at the time of the charged offenses, and he was charged as an adult. Rainer was sentenced to forty-eight years for each attempted murder charge, thirty-two years for each assault charge, and thirty-two years each for the charges of burglary and aggravated robbery. The sentences for the two counts of attempted murder were subsequently ordered to run concurrently, as were the sentences for the two counts of assault, resulting in an aggregate sentence of 112 years. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), which categorically banned sentences of life without parole for juveniles who were not convicted of homicide, Rainer moved the district court to vacate the sentence, arguing that his aggregate term-of-years sentence was the functional equivalent of life without parole and therefore unconstitutional under "Graham." The district court denied the motion. On appeal, the court of appeals reversed, concluding that, because Rainer would be eligible for parole at about age seventy-five, thus ineligible for parole within his expected lifetime, he had no meaningful opportunity to obtain release and was unconstitutional under "Graham" and the subsequent case of Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012). The Colorado Supreme Court determined "Graham" and "Miller" did not apply here, and therefore, did not invalidate Rainer's aggregate term-of-years sentence. View "Colorado v. Rainer" on Justia Law

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In 1995, Cheryl Armstrong was convicted by jury on two counts of second-degree murder under a complicity theory. She was sixteen at the time of the charged offenses, and was tried as an adult. Armstrong was sentenced to forty-eight years in prison on each count, to be served consecutively, resulting in an aggregate sentence of ninety-six years. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), which categorically banned sentences of life without parole for juveniles who were not convicted of homicide, Armstrong moved the district court to vacate the sentence, arguing that her aggregate term-of-years sentence was the functional equivalent of life without parole and therefore unconstitutional under "Graham." The district court denied Armstrong’s motion. On appeal, the court of appeals affirmed, concluding that, because Armstrong will be eligible for parole at about age sixty, she has a meaningful opportunity to obtain release, and her sentence thereby complied with "Graham" and the subsequent case of Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012). The Colorado Supreme Court determined "Graham" and "Miller" did not apply here, and therefore, did not invalidate Armstrong's aggregate term-of-years sentence. View "Armstrong v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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In 2006, a jury convicted Alejandro Estrada-Huerta of second-degree kidnapping and sexual assault. Estrada-Huerta was seventeen at the time he was charged, and he was tried as an adult. The trial court sentenced Estrada-Huerta to twenty-four years for the kidnapping conviction and sixteen years to life for each count of sexual assault. The sexual assault sentences were ordered to run concurrently with each other but consecutive to the kidnapping sentence, resulting in an aggregate sentence of forty years to life in the custody of the Department of Corrections. Estrada-Huerta moved to vacate his sentences, arguing his aggregate term-of-years sentence was the functional equivalent of life without parole and was therefore unconstitutional under Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010). The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that, because Estrada-Huerta would be eligible for parole at age fifty-eight, he had a meaningful opportunity to obtain release, therefore his sentence complied with “Graham” and the subsequent case of Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012). The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s result, though on different grounds. The Court found that “Graham” and “Miller” did not apply in this matter; Estrada-Huerta was not sentenced to life without the possibility of parole: he received consecutive terms for three separate convictions. View "Estrada-Huerta v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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Defendant was sentenced to life without parole (LWOP) for special circumstance murder. While defendant's original appeal was pending, the United States Supreme Court decided Miller v. Alabama, (2012) 567 U.S. 460, which held that mandatory LWOP sentences for juvenile homicide offenders violated the Eighth Amendment. In defendant's first appeal, the Court of Appeal reversed the judgment and remanded to the trial court to reconsider defendant's LWOP sentence after applying the individualized sentencing criteria set forth in Miller. After the trial court again imposed an LWOP sentence, defendant appealed once more. In supplemental briefing, defendant argued that Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016 applied retroactively to his case. In the published portion of this opinion, the Court of Appeal held that the suitability hearing provisions of Proposition 57 are not retroactive. View "People v. Marquez" on Justia Law

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Although the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act (Proposition 47) applies generally to juveniles as held in Alejandro N. v. Superior Court, (2015) 238 Cal.App.4th 1209, the search for statutory intent calls for a more narrow and limited approach, which focuses on the statutory language and settled case law interpreting this language. Applying this approach, the Court of Appeal held that defendant's juvenile adjudication for a violation of Penal Code section 243.4 was not a prior conviction as used in Health and Safety Code section 11377 and did not disqualify him from misdemeanor sentencing. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's finding that defendant's offense constituted a felony instead of a misdemeanor. View "People v. Zamora" on Justia Law

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Where a ward’s compliance with probation conditions (Welfare and Institutions Code section 786) has been satisfactory for dismissal purposes, the court must seal the ward’s records in accordance with the statute. A 2014 section 602 wardship petition charged A.V., age 15, with felony possession of marijuana for sale and misdemeanor possession of concentrated cannabis. A.V. admitted the truth of the allegations. The court placed A.V. on probation on the conditions, among others, that he complete 150 hours of community service work, write a 1,000-word essay about the effects of marijuana on the adolescent brain, refrain from using or possessing alcohol or drugs, and complete outpatient substance abuse counseling. While on probation, A.V. twice tested positive for marijuana use and spent time in juvenile hall. Ultimately, citing A.V.’s “record of successfully completing probation programs, excellent reports from his school, and his family support network,” the probation department recommended “that all proceedings be dismissed.” The court agreed to dismiss the proceedings but refused to seal the records. The court of appeal remanded to have the records sealed. View "In re A.V." on Justia Law

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Justin B. was found delinquent for committing criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the first degree. The family court imposed the mandatory, statutory requirement that he register as a sex offender and wear an electronic monitor, both for life. Justin B. claimed the mandatory imposition of lifetime registration and electronic monitoring on juveniles was unconstitutional. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the family court. View "In the Interest of Justin B." on Justia Law

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Order that juveniles submit to psychological evaluation before court ruling on motion to transfer for adult prosecution is not subject to immediate appellate review. Juveniles allegedly robbed a pharmacy. They were charged with Hobbs Act Robbery, 18 U.S.C. 1951(a), and possession of a firearm during that robbery, 18 U.S.C. 924(c). The government sought transfer for adult prosecution, 18 U.S.C. 5032 and moved to have the juveniles examined by government psychologists. The juveniles argued that the examinations—without counsel present—would violate their Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. The magistrate granted the motion, ordering that the psychologists “not talk … about the specific allegations.” The district court affirmed. The Seventh Circuit dismissed an interlocutory appeal for lack of jurisdiction, without addressing the merits. The order did not fit within the “small class” of nonfinal orders that “finally determine claims of right separable from, and collateral to, rights asserted in the action, too important to be denied review and too independent of the cause itself to require that appellate consideration be deferred until the whole case is adjudicated.” The juvenile will not be irreparably harmed by failure to review his constitutional claims now; he can raise these same claims on an immediate appeal if the district court grants the motion to transfer. If the court denies that motion, the government will be prohibited from using at any subsequent prosecution any information obtained during the examination. View "United States v. Sealed Defendant Juvenile Male (4)" on Justia Law