“Functional Equivalent” of LWOP and Juvenile Offenders
August 22nd, 2016

People v. Franklin (2016) 63 /c4th 261 held that juvenile homicide offenders may not be sentenced to the “functional equivalent” of LWOP without the protections outlined in Miller v. Alabama (2012) 567 U.S. __. Initially the CSC held that Miller’s prohibition on LWOP sentences for juvenile homicide offenders also prohibits sentences that are the “functional equivalent” of LWOP. The CSC notes that a similar question arose in the context of sentencing for juvenile nonhomicide offenders. In Graham v. Florida (2010) 560 U.S. 48, the Court held that no juvenile who commits a nonhomicide offense could be sentenced to LWOP. In People v. Caballero (2012) 55 Cal.4th 262, the CSC held that Graham also prohibited sentencing a juvenile nonhomicide offender to the functional equivalent to LWOP.

 Note: Senate Bill No. 260, which added Penal Code section 3051, moots Miller claims, but remand was nevertheless ordered in Franklin to provide the parties with an opportunity to make an accurate record. The Legislature explicitly passed Senate Bill No. 260 to bring juvenile sentencing into conformity with Graham, Miller, and Caballero.

 The CSC noted that its “mootness holding is limited to circumstances where, as here, PC 3051 entitles an inmate to a youth offender parole hearing against the backdrop of an otherwise lengthy mandatory sentence. The Court expressed no opinion on Miller claims by juvenile offenders who are ineligible for such a hearing under section 3051, subdivision (h), or who are serving lengthy sentences imposed under discretionary rather than mandatory sentencing statutes.”