The United States Supreme Court in Graham v. Florida ruled that life without parole sentences for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes are cruel and unusual, and therefore unconstitutional, and required that convicted juveniles must have a meaningful opportunity for release. Miller v. Alabama followed, and the Court ruled that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles convicted of any crime violated the Eighth Amendment. Florida eventually responded in 2014 with House Bill 7035, which provides that juveniles convicted of a capital felony can only be sentenced to life without parole following a sentencing hearing, provides minimum sentences and factors judges should consider in sentencing, and allows for a sentencing review for convicted juveniles after fifteen to twenty-five years, but does not apply retroactively.

This Article discusses the effect of Miller and Graham on the states, particularly Florida, and the failure of House Bill 7035 to grasp the spirit of the Court’s decisions. The Article begins by discussing the history of juvenile sentencing and the evolvement of the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Eighth Amendment, which eventually lead the Supreme Court to recognize that juvenile offenders should be treated differently than adults. The Article next discusses Graham and Miller, the states’ interpretations of these decisions, and the failure of House Bill 7035, while in technical compliance with the decisions, to comport with the spirit of the decisions. Contrary to the intent of Graham and Miller, the new law severely restricts judicial discretion in determining sentences because regardless of the factors a judge considers for each individual offender, he or she must still impose a harsh minimum sentence, in some cases forty years. In addition, the sentencing review does not provide meaningful opportunity for release and the law does not distinguish between younger and older youths. The Author then discusses other states’ laws that have better responded to Graham and Miller and suggests that Florida could better comply by permitting more judicial discretion and opportunities for sentence review, and applying the law retroactively. The Author also urges that all juvenile mandatory and life without parole sentences be abolished. The Author concludes by suggesting that Florida take further steps to protect juvenile offenders and ban young children from being tried as adults, and predicts that the Court’s philosophy that children are different will continue to develop and House Bill 7035 will eventually be held unconstitutional.