This change is important as it takes into consideration factors which distinguish juveniles and adults.
Raleigh, NC (PRWEB) July 26, 2012
The recent United States Supreme Court ruling of Miller V. Alabama has created new guidelines for all fifty states in regards to sentencing juveniles convicted with a first-degree murder. This ruling established that sentencing a minor (defined as a person under the age of eighteen at the time of the offense) to life imprisonment with no chance of parole is unconstitutional. This forced North Carolina to pass a bill which put the state’s laws in compliance with the new federal ruling. This new law, which was originally known as Senate Bill 635, has amended Article 93 to Chapter 15A of the North Carolina General Statutes. Now a juvenile who is sentenced to life in prison must become eligible for parole after serving 25 years. These recent changes has caused Raleigh Criminal Defense Lawyers and Lawyers in other parts of the State to reassess any of their clients who this change may have impacted.
Under this article, more time and consideration is put into deciding what sentence a juvenile facing a North Carolina first-degree murder charge. If the sole conviction for an adolescent was made under the felony murder rule, then the court is obliged to sentence the defendant to life with parole. If the juvenile was not convicted solely based upon the felony murder rule, then the court shall conduct a hearing to decide the sentence for the defendant.
This sentencing hearing is held before the trial court judge and takes into account all of the factors that make children different from adults and could have potentially had an effect on their actions that put them in court. Neither the State nor the Defense needs to introduce new evidence during this phase of the trial, unless the evidence is deemed relevant to sentencing matters by the court. During this hearing, the defendant and his or her North Carolina Defense Attorney submit all of the mitigating factors that apply to the defendant, which include, but are not limited to: age at the time of the offense, the ability to understand the consequences of his or her actions, immaturity, intellectual capacity, mental health, prior records, and the likelihood that the defendant will benefit from rehabilitation in confinement. At the hearing, the state is also allowed to argue in favor of or against the life sentence without parole, but the defense counsel is given the opportunity to have the final argument. The presiding judge will then take into consideration all submitted mitigating and aggravating factors, the circumstances surrounding the nature of the offense, and the circumstances surrounding the defendant themselves, weigh them against each other, and come to a conclusion as to what sentence best suits the juvenile defendant.
This new law not only applies to future convictions of a North Carolina first-degree felony murder, but also to those charged with first-degree murder that are currently awaiting a sentence, and the current inmates who have been serving time for a felony murder they committed under the age of 18. This recently added North Carolina Law is expected to affect approximately 100 teenagers in the state that are currently awaiting their sentence, and 88 current inmates who will have to file a motion to have a resentencing hearing.
"This change is important as it takes into consideration factors which distinguish juveniles and adults." Raleigh DWI Lawyer and Raleigh Criminal Lawyer M. Moseley Matheson stated. "Murder is always a heinous crime, but we as a society must be willing to consider factors such as the age and mental capacity of the juvenile when considering the appropriate sentence."
This Article is an important addition to the laws that regulate this State. Prior to its addition, many judges did not take into account the difference in mental behavior and thought processes that children have opposed to that of an adult. Article 93 pushes judges to see that there are many more factors surrounding children that motivate them towards committing immature and ignorant acts. Although a first-degree murder charge is very serious, and will be treated as such; a child’s brain and body, which are not as fully developed as the average adult’s, should be treated with more consideration.