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Texas House Panel passes measure that would allow for life sentence with a chance for parole after forty years for under eighteen year olds

Seth Topek
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Criminal Defense Attorney: Defending the Rights of the Accused and the Incarcerated

Posted on May 19, 2013

A measure allowing defendants younger than eighteen to receive a life sentence with parole eligibility after forty years was unanimously approved by a House panel according to the Texas Tribune.  Senate Bill 187 is a response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that it is unconstitutional to sentence someone under the age of eighteen to life without parole.  In Texas seventeen year olds are part of the adult criminal justice system and after the Supreme Court ruling District Attorneys Offices have been unable to prosecute a seventeen year old for capital murder because there would be no way to punish them since the only punishments available are unconstitutional when applied to a seventeen year old.  The reasoning behind the Supreme Courts ruling focused on the fact that youths are not as culpable for their crimes as a result of their lack of maturity.  Without this law prosecutors must charge the offender with a lesser included crime such as murder or some other related first degree felony.  If convicted the range of punishment on a first-degree felony is five to ninety nine years opening the door to much shorter sentence and an earlier eligibility date on parole.

    After having practiced parole law in Texas for some time now I have represented offenders who committed their offense at an extremely young age and come up for parole their thirties.  As can be imagined, prison is a very difficult place to grow up but we have seen that those that avoid the mistakes that many young inmates make come out of the process as a very different person than the one who committed the offense.  It is a very rare case that a punishment of life with parole only after forty years would fit for a defendant accused of a crime at the age of fifteen, sixteen or seventeen.  It is our experience after talking to the offender’s support system and the offender themselves the much of what the Supreme Court said was accurate and that there is a palpable difference between the mindset of someone at the age of sixteen or seventeen verses that of an adult.  Additionally, it is often the case that a different set of circumstances and factors went into the commission of the crime when committed by someone young verses someone older.  We have represented many offenders who were given long sentences at a young age for serious offenses and have found that in some of these cases if the offender has behaved well in prison, has a great deal of accomplishments and a strong support system that a convincing argument can be made that they do not pose a risk on parole.  If you have a loved one in prison and have questions about parole please call us for a free consultation at 713-651-1444.  Our parole practice takes us across the state of Texas, please fill out our secure online contact form and an experienced Texas parole lawyer will contact you shortly.

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