On October 1, 2021, the Juvenile Restoration Act will take effect. First, the JRA bans Life Without Parole in Maryland for children. Second, it permits the sentencing court to sentence below the mandatory minimum for crimes committed when the person was a child. In Maryland, life is the mandatory sentence for first degree murder. The JRA empowers the court to impose a sentence less than life. Finally, for those convicted of crimes committed when they were children, the JRA provides an opportunity to request a sentence reduction, even if the original Motion for Modification of Sentence was denied.
Who qualifies under this law?
This bill applies to those folks who were children (under 18) at the time of the crime. So imagine that a crime occurs when you are 17. You are 18 by the time your case goes to trial and 19 when you are sentenced. This law still applies to you. Your age at the time of the crime, not the time of the trial or sentencing, is what controls. In order to apply for a sentence modification under this law, you must have also served at least 20 years. Even if the Court previously denied your Motion to Modify Sentence, you may still apply under the JRA so long as you were under 18 at the time of the crime and you have served at least 20 years.
How does it work?
Under the JRA, once you file in the Circuit Court where you were sentenced, you are entitled to a hearing. There is a list of factors that the Court must consider and the Court must render a written decision based on the required factors. The Court may reduce the sentence if it determines that 1. the individual is not a danger to the public and the interests of justice will be better served by a reduced sentence.
The Court must consider the following factors when determining whether to reduce the sentence:
- the person’s age at the time of the crime;
- the nature of the crime and the history and characteristics of the defendant;
- the person’s institutional record (tickets or infractions);
- programming while incarcerated, educational/vocational/social work, etc.;
- has the person demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation that indicate that the person is ready to reenter society;
- any statement offered by the crime victim or victim’s representative;
- any report of a physical, mental, or behavioral examination of the defendant by a health professional;
- the defendant’s family and community circumstance at the time of the crime, including any history of trauma, abuse, or involvement in the child welfare system;
- the defendant’s role in the crime and whether an adult was involved in the crime;
- the diminished culpability of a child as compared to an adult, including an inability to fully appreciate risks and consequences; and,
- Any other factors the Court deems relevant.
How many chances?
If the Court denies the Motion, after waiting at least three years, you may apply again. If the Court denies the second Motion, you may apply again after waiting at least three years. You may not apply a fourth time.