prosecutors more authority to file certain cases in juvenile or criminal court as they see fit.28
Statutory exclusion, which was also expanded, exempts certain kinds of youth offenders from
juvenile court jurisdiction because of their age or the crime they committed.29 Further, most
states have statutes that require a juvenile who was once prosecuted as an adult in criminal court
to continue to be prosecuted as an adult for all subsequent offenses.30
In addition to juvenile transfers to adult criminal court, there are many federal and state
statutes that require mandatory minimum sentences for certain offenses and certain offenders.
Mandatory minimum sentencing requires that an individual who is convicted of a certain crime be
imprisoned for a fixed minimum term, as opposed to leaving the length of punishment to the
discretion of judges, who would be able to weigh that individual’s culpability along with any
applicable mitigating factors.31 Although the United States Sentencing Commission “has taken a
series of steps to reduce, and in some cases eliminate, the use of mandatory sentences”32 because
of their proven ineffectiveness, there remain several types of mandatory minimum sentences that
can be imposed for a variety of crimes including drug, gun, and sex crimes.33 “The most widely
recognized are those that demand that offenders be sentenced to imprisonment for ‘no less than’ a
designated term of imprisonment.”34 These sentences may be imposed because of the nature of
the offense or because of the offender’s criminal record.35 Another category of mandatory
sentences consist of a flat single sentence statute, most of which call for life in prison.36 A third
category of mandatory sentences are known as “piggyback” statutes, which “are not themselves
mandatory minimums but sentence offenders by reference to underlying statutes including those
that impose mandatory minimums.”37
One policy related to mandatory minimum sentences is the truth-in-sentencing laws.
Many states enacted a truth-in-sentencing law, “which requires offenders to serve a substantial
28 YOUNG & GAINSBOROUGH, supra note 19, at 4.
29 Id. In the majority of states within the United States, the legislature has determined that juveniles should be treated as adults in
certain cases (typically involving serious offenses). Sickmund, supra note 24, at 3. As a result, the law excludes those cases from
juvenile court and prosecutors are required to file them in criminal court. Sickmund, supra note 24, at 3. In Illinois, for example,
children will be excluded from the definition of “delinquent minor” for purposes of juvenile court jurisdiction and will be subject to
adult criminal court jurisdiction for crimes including the following if the child is fifteen years old or older: (1) first degree murder; (2)
aggravated criminal sexual assault; (3) aggravated battery with a firearm where the minor personally discharged the firearm; (4) armed
robbery when the armed robbery was committed with a firearm, or (5) aggravated vehicular hijacking committed with a firearm. 705
ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 405/5-130 (West 2014). Additionally, Governor Pat Quinn signed House Bill 2404 into law on July 8, 2013,
which permits seventeen year olds charged with misdemeanors and certain felonies to be tried in juvenile rather than adult court. A
Great Day for Juvenile Justice Reforms, JUV. JUST. INITIATIVE (July 8, 2013), http://jjustice.org/a-great-day-for-juvenile-justice-reforms/. The law does not affect felonies, such as those listed above, which are subject to automatic transfer to adult court. Id.
30 YOUNG & GAINSBOROUGH, supra note 19, at 4.
31 Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Law & Legal Definition, USLEGAL, http://definitions.uslegal.com/m/mandatory-minimum-sentencing/ (last visited Apr. 28, 2014). The Court, in the Davis case, summarizes in the paragraph below possible mitigating factors
that a judge may consider when determining the sentence that should be imposed.
[A] mandatory sentence precludes consideration of such mitigating circumstances as: the juvenile offender’s
age and its attendant characteristics; the juvenile’s family and home environment and the circumstances of the
offense, including the extent of the juvenile’s participation therein and the effect of any familial or peer
pressure; the juvenile’s possible inability to interact with police officers or prosecutors, or incapacity to assist
his or her own attorneys; and the “possibility of rehabilitation even with the circumstances most suggest it.”
People v. Davis, 6 N.E.3d 709, 718 (Ill. 2014).
32 STEPHANIE KOLLMANN & DOMINIQUE NONG, COMBATING GUN VIOLENCE IN ILLINOIS: EVIDENCE-BASED SOLUTIONS 8 (2013)
(explaining that the Sentencing Commission has suggested “safety valve mechanisms” that would allow judges to give sentences
below the mandatory minimum prescribed by the statute).
33 See generally CHARLES DOYLE, CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE FEDERAL MANDATORY MINIMUM SENTENCING 1-2, 59-69
(2013), available at
http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL32040.pdf (discussing federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws).
35 Id. at 2-3. An example of this type of mandatory minimum sentence is the “Three Strikes” rule, in which a “defendant convicted of a
federal ‘serious violent felony’ must be sentenced to life imprisonment under the so-called three strikes law, 18 U.S.C. 3559(c), if he
has two prior state or federal violent felony convictions or one such conviction and a serious drug offense conviction.” Id. at 97.