The decision to send a youth to the adult system is a very serious one. Juveniles are different from adults and should be treated as such. The juvenile system is more focused on rehabilitation and provides more support and opportunities for juvenile offenders compared to adult criminal facilities. Substantial research has concluded youth dealt with in the juvenile system are far less likely to commit new crimes than those tried as adults.
Roper v. Simmons (2004) - The United States Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that it is unconstitutional to impose the death penalty for a crime committed by a child under the age of 18, stating that it is "cruel and unusual punishment" prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.
Graham v. Florida (2010) and Sullivan v. Florida (2010) - The United States Supreme Court ruled that life without the possibility of parole sentences for juveniles convicted of nonhomicide offenses are unconstitutional.
J.D.B v. North Carolina (2010) - Under consideration in this case was whether a child's age is a relevant factor to consider in determining whether the child is in custody for purposes of Miranda v. Arizona. The United States Supreme Court ruled that a child's age must be considered by law enforcement in determining whether Miranda warnings need to be given to children during police interrogations. NACDL Amicus Brief
Miller v. Alabama (2012) - Under consideration in this case was the constitutionality of imposing life without parole sentences on juveniles convicted of homicide offenses. The United States Supreme Court ruled that "mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on 'cruel and unusual punishments' and that a 'judge or jury must have the opportunity to consider mitigating circumstances before imposing the harshest possible penalty for juveniles.'"
Montgomery v. Louisiana (2015) - Under consideration in this case was whether Miller v. Alabama applied retroactively to individuals serving mandatory juvenile life without parole sentences. In a 6-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that their decision in Miller v. Alabama applied retroactively.
Jones v. Mississippi (2021) - Under consideration in this case was the constitutionality of imposing a life without parole sentence on a juvenile that has not been found to be permanently incorrigible. In a 6-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a sentencing authority is not required to find a juvenile permanently incorrigible before imposing a life without parole sentence. NACDL Amicus Brief
Trial Defense Guidelines
NACDL was pleased to assist in the development and sought subsequent Board approval of Trial Defense Guideline: Representing a Child Client Facing a Possible Life Sentence. This valuable resource provides defense attorneys with a standard in defending juveniles who are facing the possibility of a life sentence.
In November 2020, NACDL partnered with Human Rights for Kids and Legal Aid Justice Center to host Major Changes in the Sentences of Minors: Recent Legal Updates in the Sentencing of Youth in Virginia, a free webinar to teach stakeholders about new developments in the treatment of juveniles facing adult court prosecution. Legislation passed in 2020 established that judges are no longer bound by mandatory minimum sentences and are directed to consider trauma, developmental factors, and other experiences that distinguish the experiences of youth in our criminal legal system.
In 2012, NACDL hosted several webinars providing essential instruction to defense lawyers representing juveniles. The first webinar series provides instruction on representing juveniles at sentencing in adult court in the post – Roper, Graham and Miller era. Topics include Lessons Learned from Graham v. Florida and Re-sentencing Juveniles Convicted of Homicide Post-Miller.
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Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence: A Trial Strategy Guide
NACDL’s Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence will assist criminal defense practitioners in scoring points when cross-examining forensic experts in cases involving DNA and biological evidence. This resource contains thousands of questions that will help defense lawyers cross-examine challenging witnesses without reinventing the wheel with each new case. It includes pattern questions that can be used to dominate prosecution DNA experts and level the playing field at trial.
Cross-Examination of the Analyst in Drug Prosecutions (2nd Ed.) By James M. Shellow
Now in its second edition with some new material, James M. Shellow’s book offers what its title promises: ways of thinking about cross-examining the forensic analysts in drug cases. But the book is so much more than that. It offers a look inside the mind of one of the finest cross-examiners and defense lawyers the United States has produced in the last seventy years. This small book can inspire and direct you in making big changes in the way you defend your clients and think about the entire project of trying any case.
Justice For All, Justice Now White T-Shirt (Women’s)
This custom, vintage-faded NACDL t-shirt is 50% polyester, 25% cotton, and 25% rayon weighing 5.2 oz. and is lightwieght, flexible and soft, providing maximum comfort. It features the "Justice For All, Justice Now" slogan and Lady Liberty image on the front, with the NACDL logo on the back. Currently available in both men's and women's sizes in both black and white colors. View the full line-up of colors and sizes on our online store, as well as our other popular and best-selling t-shirt designs at: nacdl.org/store.
Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection - CD-ROM
NACDL’s Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection is the sweeping culmination of every single article of written materials ever published from each installment of NACDL's annual "Defending Modern Drug Cases" seminar. Totaling over 12,000 pages, this vast collection includes 12+ years of motions, briefs, reports, outlines, transcripts, case citations, scholarly articles, powerpoints and other written commentaries. This collection provides trial strategies and tactics you can immediately apply to your current cases.
Mental Illness & the Law: Addressing and Litigating Behavioral Health Disorders in Criminal Cases
Whether it is insanity, impairment, a disorder, or adolescent brain development; mental health and intellectual competence issues affect pretrial supervision, trial and sentencing, and your chances of successfully advocating for your impaired client. This training provides ideas and proven solutions to assist you in advocating for your client during trial, whether it be insanity defenses, jury selection, cross of expert witnesses, persuasion, or mitigation at sentencing.
The second webinar series provides strategies for representing juveniles in adult court. Topics include Communicating with a Juvenile Client: JTIP Lesson on Interviewing and Counseling Youth; Incorporating Adolescent Brain & Behavioral Development Science into All Stages of the Criminal Proceeding; and Strategies for Keeping Youth out of Adult Jails and Prisons: Bail, Sentencing and Post-Sentencing Advocacy.
Both series were conducted in partnership with the National Juvenile Defender Center, the Juvenile Law Center, and the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, supported by funding from the Foundation for Criminal Justice and the Ford Foundation.
There have been several significant advancements in legislation over the past year to transform state juvenile justice systems. In Utah, the passage of HB 262 raised the lower age of juvenile jurisdiction to eliminate the prosecution and incarceration of children under 12 years of age, instead requiring a formal diversion process. In Virginia, HB 744 established that a court can depart from any mandatory minimum sentence in cases where a juvenile is tried as an adult and convicted of a felony and established that the court must consider the differences between juveniles and adults and the juvenile’s exposure to adverse childhood experiences. With unanimous consent in both houses, Oklahoma passed HB 1282, which restricts the use of detention for children under the 15 years of age. Nebraska (LB 230) and Washington State (HB 2277) both prohibited juvenile solitary confinement as a form of punishment or retaliation, severely limited the use of room confinement for juveniles, and created stricter reporting requirements for any use of isolation.
View NACDL’s legislative report below to review legislation currently under consideration. Also, consider joining NACDL’s State Criminal Justice Network (SCJN) to exchange information, share resources, and develop strategies for promoting rational and humane policies impacting children in the criminal legal system.
In April 2021, three bills were introduced in Congress that would make significant changes to the juvenile justice system. H.R. 2834, introduced by Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA), would establish that parents must be notified when a child is arrested and require that the child consult with legal counsel before they can waive their rights and face custodial interrogation. H.R. 2908, sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), would set the minimum age of criminal culpability at 12 years of age and raise the minimum age that a child can be tried as an adult from 13 to 16 years of age. This bill would also repeal the felony murder rule for children, prohibit the placement of children in adult jails or prisons, and mandate data collection on children in the federal system. Finally, H.R. 2858, introduced by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), would allow individuals convicted of crimes as children to petition a judge for sentencing review after serving 20 years, thereby retroactively ending juvenile life without parole sentencing. The bill also allows judges to depart from mandatory minimums when sentencing youth and creates safeguards against harsh sentences for children who commit acts of violence against individuals who are sexually abusing them. To view more federal legislation that NACDL is tracking related to juvenile justice, visit NACDL's Legislative Action Center and click on 'View key legislation' under the heading 'Find Legislation.'
- "What Do Police Know About Teenagers? Not Enough.,"
- "Illinois is first state in U.S. to ban police from lying to minors during interrogations,"
- "D.C. Council bill would limit prosecutions of juveniles in adult court,"
Most Recent News Releases
News Release ~ 01/25/2016
Supreme Court Ban on Mandatory Juvenile Life Without Parole Strengthened, Made Retroactive -- Washington, DC (Jan. 25, 2016) -- In a case revisiting its landmark 2012 juvenile justice decision in Miller v. Alabama, today the United States Supreme Court ruled in Montgomery v. Louisiana that its holding in Miller prohibiting mandatory life without parole for juveniles is a substantive rule of Constitutional law and therefore retroactive in cases of state collateral review.
- News Release ~ 03/11/2015
News Release ~ 08/16/2012
Cal. Supreme Court Holds 110-Year Sentence For Juvenile Defendant Was ‘Cruel and Unusual’ -- Washington, DC (Aug. 16, 2012) – The California Supreme Court today held today that sentencing a juvenile to imprisonment – a term of years – with a parole eligibility date that falls past his natural life expectancy violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.
Juvenile Justice Media Items
Major Changes in the Sentencing of Minors: Recent Legal Updates in the Sentencing of Youth in VA
- In re Pers. Restraint of Ali, Slip Opinion No. 95578-6 (Wash. 2020)
- State v. Houston-Sconiers, 391 P.3d 409, 420 (Wash. 2017)
- Commonwealth v. Perez, 80 N.E.3d 967 (Mass. 2017)
- State v. Lyle, 854 N.W.2d 378 (Iowa 2014)
- Judicial Bench Card – Virginia, Human Rights for Kids
Law Reviews & News Articles
- Suzanne S. La Pierre & James Dold, The Evolution of Decency: Why Mandatory Minimum and Presumptive Sentencing Schemes Violate the Eighth Amendment for Child Offenders, 27 Va. J. Soc. Pol'y & L. 165 (2020)
- Vincent J Felitti MD, FACP and Robert F Anda MD, MS, et al., Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, 14(4) Am. J. Prev. Med. 245 (1998) https://doi.org/10.1016/S0749-3797(98)00017-8
- Justice system reforms will help protect children, By Del. Vivian Watts, For The Virginian-Pilot (May 6, 2020)
- Virginia Code 16.1-272
- HB 35 amending 19.2-387, 19.2-389, 19.2-391, 53.1-136, and 53.1-165.1
- HB 477 amending 16.1-241, 16.1-269.1, 16.1-269.2, and 16.1-277.1
- HB 744 amending 16.1-272
- HB 746 amending 16.1-247.1
- SB 3 amending 18.2-415
About the Speakers
Rhanelle Collins-Meredith currently serves as a Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney for the Chesterfield County. Previously, she was a prosecutor with the City of Richmond and City of Hopewell Commonwealth’s Attorney’sssss Offices. Prior to working as a prosecutor, she worked for Temple Law Offices in Washington, DC. Since 2010, her practice has been primarily devoted to criminal matters originating in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations court including cases involving violent juvenile offenses, child physical and sexual abuse, adult sexual assault and domestic violence.
She received her Bachelor of Arts in History and Politcal Science from Virginia Union University and her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center. She is currently a member of the Chesterfield Intimate Partner and Family Violence Fatality Review Committee, Chesterfield Domestic Violence Task Force, the Human Trafficking Regional Law Enforcement Collaborative, and the Regional Child Fatality Review Committee.
James Dold: Inspired by his own personal experiences of child sexual abuse and child labor trafficking, as well as his work fighting to end child trafficking and the use of cruel punishments imposed on children who were convicted of serious crimes, James Dold founded Human Rights for Kids in May of 2017 in response to the human rights abuses that children in the U.S. and around the world face on a daily basis.
It was his belief that by bringing together diverse stakeholders from various ideological and political backgrounds that we can create a national movement to holistically change society’s failure to adequately care for our most marginalized and vulnerable children. Only by tackling the issues of childhood poverty, child abuse & exploitation, childhood delinquency & crime, and education together can we secure the protection of every child’s human rights so that he or she may fulfill their God given potential and have an equal chance in the race of life.
Judge Jerrauld Jones is currently the Chief Judge of the Norfolk Circuit Court. He joined the Circuit Court in 2008, having previously served for three years as a Judge of the Norfolk Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. Prior to his judicial appointments, Jerrauld Jones served as the Direction of the Virginia Dept. of Juvenile Justice and served 15 years in the Virginia House of Delegates.
As an Anne C. Stouffer Foundation Scholar, he was among the first students to break racial barriers at Virginia Episcopal School in Lynchburg, Virginia. . After graduating with honors from Princeton University and the School of Law at Washington and Lee University, he was the first African-American to serve as a Law Clerk for the Justices of the Supreme Court of Virginia. Following his clerkship, he served for two years as an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Norfolk.
He has received numerous honors, awards, and citations for his contributions to law and for his public service. In 2013, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Virginia State University. In 2015, the Virginia State Bar awarded him its Harry L. Carrico Professionalism Award. In 2016, the South Hampton Roads Bar Association presented him with its inaugural “Judge of the Year” award. In 2018, he was presented with Men for Hope’s Trailblazer Award. In 2019, he was presented with the Hugo A. Owens, Sr., Humanitarian Award by the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. In 2020, the United Negro College Fund conferred its highest honor, the MASKED Award (Mankind Assisting Students Kindle Educational Dreams).In September 2019, Gov. Ralph Northam appointed him to serve on the Commission on Racial Inequity in Virginia Law.
Brad Lindsay is the Deputy Public Defender for the Lynchburg City Office of the Public Defender. Brad received his undergraduate degree from George Mason University, and received his Juris Doctor from Howard University School of Law. Brad first began working as a public defender with the Fairfax County office in 2012. In 2018, Brad transitioned to the Bedford County Office of the Public Defender where he was the Senior Trial Attorney with a specialization in training. Brad joined the Lynchburg office in January 2020.
During his career, Brad has tried a wide variety of cases ranging from driving on a suspended license to a jury acquittal of not guilty by reason of insanity on first degree murder. He has also argued before the Virginia Court of Appeals and Supreme Court of Virginia.
Brad is currently a faculty member for the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission’s Public Defender Boot Camp and Advanced Trial Advocacy College. Brad sits on the Virginia State Bar’s Judicial Candidate Evaluation Committee. He also sits on the board of the Mid-Atlantic Juvenile Defender Center as a consulting member, as well as a member of the Robert E. Shepherd Jr. Juvenile Law and Education Conference Planning Committee.
Brad has previously presented at the National Juvenile Defender Center’s Juvenile Defender Leadership Summit, the Virginia State Bar Leroy R. Hassell Sr. Indigent Criminal Defense Seminar, the VIDC’s Annual Public Defender Conference, as well as its Annual Investigator Conference.
Julie E. McConnell is a law professor and the Director of the Children’s Defense Clinic at the University of Richmond School of Law. She has worked in juvenile justice for more than 25 years and is a frequent speaker and trainer on these issues. Through her clinic, she and her students represent on a pro bono basis, indigent youth, at trial, in school-based proceedings, and in post-conviction serious offender hearings. McConnell also served as co-counsel on the Azeem Majeed Miller re-sentencing case. The Court reduced Majeed’s two life sentences to 25 years. She also collaborated on the Philip Friend Miller resentencing in U.S. District Court, resulting in a 12-year reduction in his sentence. She has served as a juvenile justice system expert in a Virginia capital murder case and is currently a juvenile justice consultant for the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law in Valetta, Malta. She and her students also advocate for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status predicate orders for unaccompanied minors from Central America to assist in their path to citizenship and she recently started a project to represent individuals originally sentenced as juveniles before the parole board. Additionally, she serves as co-chair of the Virginia Advisory Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and Prevention and was recently appointed the Chair of the Virginia Bar Association’s Commission on the Needs of Children.
Del. Vivian Watts, Delegate 39th House District, Virginia House of Delegates. Vice Chair, Courts of Justice Committee; Chair, Finance Committee. Education: University of Michigan, MI (B.A., cum laude, 1962).
Juvenile Sentencing Reform: Law, Policy and Prevention
- Moderator: Professor Eduardo Ferrer, Visiting Professor at the Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic and the Policy Director of the Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative, Georgetown University of Law Center
- Professor Cara Drinan, Professor of Law, The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law
- Halim Flowers, Artist, Writer, Activist
- Tyrone Walker, Associate and Project Director, Justice Police Institute
- The Death Penalty and Sentencing: Applying Lessons Learned