PENAL CODE SECTION 1170 MAY OFFER RELIEF TO THOSE JUVENILES CONVICTED TO LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE
I previously discussed the 2012 United States Supreme Court case, Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. ___ , wherein the Supreme Court held that mandatory sentencing laws carrying life without parole were unconstitutional for juvenile offenders convicted of committing murder and the subsequent Supreme Court case earlier this year, Montgomery v. Louisiana, making the decision in Miller v. Alabama retroactive. In the same year that the Supreme Court published Miller v. Alabama, the California Legislature enacted a new law in the Penal Code under section 1170, which provides for a petition process to defendants who were under the age of 18 when they committed an offense for which they were sentenced to life without parole. Under this statute, juvenile defendants so sentenced can, after 15 years of their term, petition the sentencing court to resentence the offender.
Now this is law does not fall under the equation outlined in Miller v. Alabama because it does not concern mandatory sentencing but it does address the same reasoning for the Supreme Court’s decision. In Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court recognized the differences between the teenage brain and the adult brain. The majority opinion in the Miller v. Alabama decision recognized the “hallmark features” of the teenager’s conduct, including “immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences.”