Thursday, March 19, 2015

Florida Supreme Court: U.S. Supreme Court's 2012 Ban On Life Sentences To Juveniles Applies Retroactively

In Falcon v. Florida (SC13-865), the Florida Supreme Court unanimously answered a question that the state and federal courts have addressed with differing results. Justice Pariente wrote the unanimous opinion which began by stating the question presented to the court:
The issue in this case is whether the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455, 2469 (2012)—which “forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders”—applies to juvenile offenders whose convictions and sentences were already final at the time Miller was decided. 
The Florida Supreme Court noted that it would reach the same result "[a]pplying this Court’s test for retroactivity, as articulated in Witt v. State, 387 So. 2d 922, 931 (Fla. 1980)," and applying "the test for retroactivity set forth in Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 307 (1989)." 

The court held as follows:
we conclude that the rule set forth in Miller constitutes a 'development of fundamental significance' and therefore must be given retroactive effect....Accordingly, we answer the certified question in the affirmative and hold that the Supreme Court’s decision in Miller applies retroactively to juvenile offenders whose convictions and sentences were final at the time Miller was decided. Under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850(b)(2), any affected juvenile offender shall have two years from the time the mandate issues in this case to file a motion for postconviction relief in the trial court seeking to correct his or her sentence pursuant to Miller. 
Based on our decision in Horsley v. State, No. SC13-1938, slip op. at 3 (Fla. Mar. 19, 2015), we conclude that the appropriate remedy for any juvenile offender whose sentence is now unconstitutional under Miller is a resentencing pursuant to the framework established in legislation enacted by the Florida Legislature in 2014. See ch. 2014-220, Laws of Fla.  


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