Last November, the City Council of the District of Columbia passed the Act, which creates a sentencing review opportunity for some (but not all) individuals sentenced in Washington, D.C. who were convicted of an offense that occurred before they reached the age of 18.
The Act went into effect this past April and permits an individual to petition the court for a sentencing review IF:
1) they were convicted of a violation of the D.C. Code in the District of Columbia Superior Court (not federal court in D.C.), and
2) they were convicted in adult court for an offense that occurred before their 18th birthday, and
3) they have served at least 20 years in prison, and
- they have a parole-eligible sentence but are not yet eligible for a parole hearing, or
- they have a non-parole-eligible sentence (meaning they have an out-date at some point in the future) or
- they have a life sentence that is not parole-eligible.
Preparing for sentencing review under the Act will take a lot of time and work. The Act requires the judge to consider a variety of factors, including the person’s age and life circumstances at the time of the offense, what the person has done while incarcerated, and the factors that make youth different than adults. It’s important to keep in mind that this new law only provides an opportunity for sentencing review and does not guarantee a sentence reduction or release.
Limited number and frequency of judicial review opportunities:
Individuals who qualify for relief under the Act are able to petition for sentencing review with a judge after serving 20 years.
- If the first petition is denied, the person cannot have a second sentencing review until he or she has served an additional five years.
- If the second petition is denied, the person cannot have his/her third and final petition for an additional five years.
- Individuals eligible for sentencing review under the Act cannot file more than three petitions.
Due to the amount of work that will be needed to present a strong petition to the judge, and because individuals eligible under the Act only have three opportunities for sentencing review, legal representation is incredibly important. Please visit the Process and Eligibility page to learn how to obtain a lawyer.