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Miller Applies Retroactively in Florida

In a unanimous decision, the Florida Supreme Court held that the ruling in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012), which “forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders,” is entitled to retroactive application.

Before the court was a certified question from the First District Court of Appeals in the case of Rebecca Lee Falcon, who was 15 years old in late 1997 when she participated in an attempted robbery that resulted in the death of a cab driver.  She received a life sentence without parole for the murder and 207.5 months in prison for the armed robbery.

Following the ruling in Miller, Falcon moved for post- conviction relief.  The trial court and the First District denied the motion, asserting a Third District Court of Appeal opinion properly found Miller was not retroactive because it was procedural rather than substantive.

In answering the First District’s question, The Florida Supreme Court held Miller constitutes a change in law “which place[s] beyond the authority of the state the power to regulate certain conduct or impose certain penalties,” which makes it a “development of fundamental significance” that applies retroactively.

“The patent unfairness of depriving indistinguishable juvenile offenders of their liberty for the rest of their lives, based solely when their cases were decided, weighs heavily in favor of applying the Supreme Court’s decision in Miller retroactively,” The Court wrote.

It ordered that Falcon’s case be remanded for resentencing with application of “The juvenile sentencing legislation enacted by The Florida Legislature in 2014.”  See: Falcon v. State, case no. SC13-865 (Fla.2015).

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Related legal case

Falcon v. State