Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth Releases First-Ever Guidelines for Juvenile Life Cases

cfsyThe Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (CSFY) has released the first-ever set of guidelines to protect the rights of young people facing possible life imprisonment. Titled “Trial Defense Guidelines: Representing a Child Client Facing a Possible Life Sentence,” this 24-page report has been endorsed by a wide range of attorneys, child advocates and juvenile justice experts.

Sparked by the findings of the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark 2012 Miller v. Alabama decision, the guidelines call for a “national standard to ensure zealous, constitutionally effective representation” for all juveniles facing a possible life sentence, citing Miller’s holding that trial courts must “take into account how children are different and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing [children] to a lifetime in prison.”

The guidelines are based on 11 foundational principles including “children are constitutionally and developmentally different from adults,” “children must not be defined by a single act,” “juvenile life defense requires a qualified team trained in adolescent development,” and “juvenile life defense requires communicating with clients in a trauma-informed, culturally competent, developmentally and age-appropriate manner.”

Split into the following nine parts, these guidelines aim to strengthen and improve defense in juvenile life cases:

  • Defense Team Composition and Ethical Duties
  • Defense Counsel Qualifications and Responsibilities
  • Investigator Qualifications and Responsibilities
  • Mitigation Specialist Qualifications and Responsibilities
  • Sentencing
  • Plea Agreements
  • Post-Sentencing Responsibilities
  • Defense Team Compensation
  • Training

“The Trial Defense Guidelines recognize that children need to be treated as children when facing a possible life-in-prison sentence,” said Marsha Levick, chief counsel and deputy director at the Philadelphia-based, nonprofit Juvenile Law Center, in an email. “The guidelines also will ensure a child receives a meaningful, individualized sentencing hearing before imposition of a sentence.”

CFSY collaborated with attorneys and advocates from across the nation to create the guidelines. Visit the CFSY website for more information and access the full guidelines online.

Updated: February 08 2018