Juvenile sentencing bill clears House committee

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster (@Jenna_Buzzacco)

A bill moving through the state House could change how the state sentences juveniles.

The bill – House bill 7035, sponsored by Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa – addresses the state’s sentencing laws for juveniles who commit murders or other serious felonies. The proposal is meant to put Florida in compliance with two U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

In the House proposal, a juvenile offender convicted of a capital felony homicide must be sentenced to life imprisonment, if a judge deems it appropriate. If the judge finds life imprisonment is not appropriate, the offender must be sentenced to a term of at least 30 years.

Juveniles convicted of first degree felony homicide may be sentenced to life imprisonment; however the House proposal allows for a sentence review after 25 years.

Those juveniles convicted of a first degree felony that is not a homicide, may be sentenced to life imprisonment, with a review after 20 years.

“We’re in a position to get something passed or having the Supreme Court write the law,” said Grant.

On Tuesday, speakers said the bill was a good start but more work needed to be done before it gets to the House floor.

“This bill is getting better, but it doesn’t go all the way,” said Nancy Daniels, a public defender. “We feel great progress is being made.”

The proposal cleared the House justice appropriations subcommittee meeting and now heads to the House judiciary meeting.

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