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Implications of Trying and Sentencing Children in Adult Court

Although lawmakers in the United States draw a clear distinction between children and adults when it comes to marriage, drinking and voting, they have failed to apply this distinction to the treatment of children under criminal law. For example, despite the recent Supreme Court ruling in the case of Miller v. Alabama, the United States …

Although lawmakers in the United States draw a clear distinction between children and adults when it comes to marriage, drinking and voting, they have failed to apply this distinction to the treatment of children under criminal law. For example, despite the recent Supreme Court ruling in the case of Miller v. Alabama, the United States remains the only country in the world to sentence children to life in prison without the possibility of parole. If your child is facing criminal charges and will be tried and sentenced in adult court in Oklahoma, contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Oklahoma Legal Center as soon as possible. Too often, juvenile offenders who should be tried as children are subjected to unfair prison sentences dealt out in adult court. With the help of our knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys at Oklahoma Legal Center, you can ensure that your child has qualified legal counsel on his or her side.

U.S. Legal System’s Unfair Treatment of Juvenile Offenders

In the Miller decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole for juveniles convicted of homicide is unconstitutional. Under this decision, judges in all U.S. courts are now required to take into account certain factors before issuing a sentence, including the defendant’s age, involvement in the crime, background, and potential for rehabilitation. Taking into consideration its 2010 Graham v. Florida decision as well, in which juvenile sentences of life without parole for non-homicide crimes was banned, it seems the Supreme Court may be attempting to put criminal laws in the U.S. more in line with other countries.

According to a new study conducted by the Center for Law and Global Justice at the University of San Francisco, 84% of countries take into consideration the age of the offender at trial, leaving the United States as the only Western country to not follow this practice. Most countries also establish sentence caps at 20 years or less for child offenders, or reduce the degree of the crime to one that carries a less severe sentence. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court did not completely ban the possibility of life without parole for juvenile offenders in the Miller trial; it merely hoped that the sentence would be “uncommon.”

Consecutive Sentences Same as Life Without Parole

While the 2,594 children currently serving sentences of life without parole rejoiced over the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Miller case, others are unsure whether the decision will affect them. In many U.S. states, consecutive sentences leave juveniles to serve so many years in prison that they will never be released. In Missouri, one juvenile challenging his case before federal court was sentenced to 241 years in prison for a crime he committed at the age of 16. This case was not addressed in the Miller ruling, since it was not technically labeled as a life-without-parole sentence. Until judges recognize that a 100-year prison sentence is the same as life without parole, children will continue to suffer an injustice under the U.S. legal system.

Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help

For a country that prides itself on its commitment to protecting international human rights, the United States falls awfully short when it comes to matching international norms regarding juvenile offenders. For example, the United States is one of only three countries in the world – along with Somalia, which doesn’t have a formal government, and South Sudan, a newly formed country – that is not party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a significant U.N. treaty that establishes legal protections for children.

If the United States is serious about maintaining its role as a human rights leader, it will do away with life without parole sentences for juveniles, regardless of what form they take. If your child has been charged with a criminal offense in Oklahoma and is set to be tried and sentenced in adult court, enlist the help of our skilled criminal defense lawyers at Oklahoma Legal Center today. The justice system is flawed in that it often doesn’t recognize a juvenile offender as a child, subjecting 14- and 15-year-old kids to lengthy prison sentences without the possibility of parole. With our qualified criminal defense attorneys on your side, you can significantly improve the chances of your child’s charges or sentence being reduced.

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