Life sentence – What does it actually mean?

When you hear the term life sentence, you may assume it means the person has to spend their life in prison. And, while this is true in some cases, other times it’s not. Really, it depends on the sentencing and if parole or pardon are granted.

When a life sentence is given, there is a minimum amount of time that is required to be served before the person can come up for parole (if that’s an option). The judge delivers a verdict based on what the criminal code says if a person is convicted of a crime.

The life sentence may refer to a set number such as 15 or 25 years, for example. If a judge decides the person should serve more time without potentially being released for parole after that minimum amount of time served, they may sentence the person to more than one life sentence. That means the number of years is then multiplied by the number of life sentences.

So, if the person gets one life sentence with the potential of parole, after they’ve served the minimum amount of time they can potentially be paroled, but it’s not guaranteed. If the person is paroled, they can serve their sentence outside the prison walls under certain criteria.

In some situations, people are not given the option to be paroled. That’s when you hear the term “life sentence without parole.” Life sentence without parole means the person has to live out their years in prison. When federal courts deliver a life sentence it is done so without parole (for “offenses committed after December 1, 1987″). The individual only qualifies for release if the president pardons them or gives them a reprieve. Another possibility for release occurs if the conviction is appealed or rescinded.

If you’re wondering whether a minor can serve a life sentence without parole it’s important to note the following. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 2011 “that sentencing minors to life without parole, automatically (as the result of a statute) or as the result of a judicial decision, for crimes other than intentional homicide, violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishments”, in the case of Graham v. Florida.”

As you can see the law is complicated. A life sentence may actually mean a life sentence or there could be a chance of parole once the minimum sentence is served. There are also special cases where a conviction may be changed to a fixed number or a pardon.

[Monalisa Johnson is a licensed and ordained minister of the gospel and a certified life coach as well as a mother and entrepreneur. In no way is anything that she writes, speaks or shares considered medical advice or clinical therapy. Consider all that you receive to be life coaching and guidance.]

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