TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida juveniles will no longer be subject to mandatory life sentences under a bill the Legislature has passed.
The House passed the bill 115-0 Friday evening. The Senate passed the measure 36-0 last week. It now awaits the signature of Gov. Rick Scott.
The bill (HB 7035) would bring Florida law in line with a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says life without parole for juveniles violates the Constitution's ban against cruel and unusual punishment, leaving Florida law in need of an update. The bill leaves the mandatory minimum for first-degree murder, creates judicial sentencing reviews and denies those reviews for those previously convicted of violent felonies before committing first-degree murder.
The U.S. Supreme Court has acknowledged that juvenile brains are still developing, and they deserve an opportunity for rehabilitation.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the Florida Supreme Court began hearing arguments in the case of Rebecca Falcon, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole at age 15 after a cab driver was shot in the head in 1997. She is seeking release after the U.S. Supreme Court banned life-without-parole sentences for those who were under age 18 when the crime was committed.