When one is convicted of a crime, it is the judge’s responsibility to determine an appropriate punishment. The Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution states that “excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” Several factors play into what kind of sentence one can receive when one is convicted of a crime, such as:
- Whether or not it was the offender’s first crime
- Whether the offender was under significant stress
- Whether the offender was the main offender or an aid to the main offender
- Whether anyone involved in the crime was injured
- Whether the offender appears genuinely remorseful for his acts
- The offender’s age
Increasingly, judges are considering the age of the offender when determining the sentence he shall serve. Age tends to be a mitigating factor in cases in which offenders are particularly elderly or young. Due to their advanced or minor age, such offenders typically receive lighter sentences.
Juvenile Crime in Florida
Florida is one of 22 states that does not set a minimum age for arrest. There is also no minimum age for which children can be tried in criminal court. In fact, the youngest person ever arrested in Florida was a 4-year old who was complicit in a group of five children arrested on felony burglary and misdemeanor criminal mischief charges. Minors under 18 are considered “children” by Florida law, although this particular state is rated the worst state for children accused of crimes.
While age is certainly a mitigating factor in some cases, Florida appears to be an anomaly with the highest rate of kids being transferred to adult court than any other state, even for nonviolent crimes such as drug possession. Between 2010 and 2015, 12,000 youth were transferred to face adult charges, 60% of which were for nonviolent crimes. At these times the counsel of a juvenile criminal defense attorney is vital as the child’s life is literally on the line.
In general, youth are treated differently from adults when it comes to serious offenses. In Miller v. Alabama (2012) the US Supreme Court held that a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional for juvenile offenders, even for crimes involving murder. Justice Elena Kagan wrote “mandatory life without parole for those under 18 at the time of their crime violates the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments.”
A study conducted by Arizona State University found that people over 40 equal a fourth of all criminal defendants despite being the age group most associated with crime. It also found that people over 60 tend to receive more leniency.
There are three plausible reasons for more leniency: they are found to be less blameworthy due to issues outside their control, they are not considered dangerous because they are less likely to further commit crime, and they are in poor health.
In Florida many senior offenders receive correctional supervision rather than incarceration. From 1999-2000, 24% of seniors under correctional supervision were being supervised for sexual offenses; 21.5% for theft, forgery or fraud; 18% for violent personal offenses; and 13.8% for drug offenses. Younger offenders usually serve prison time for these very same crimes.
Regardless of your age, you should not count on what you perceive will be mitigating factors working in your favor should you be sentenced for a crime. It is highly advised to partner with a tenacious Florida criminal defense attorney who understands the law and inner workings of the Florida court system. That attorney is Mr. Brian Gabriel of The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel, who has dutifully served the criminally accused for over 30 years. Consult with Mr. Gabriel for free by calling 561-622-5575.