State v. Smiley

Jerri Smiley was charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action for an offense that occurred when she was 16. Missouri’s Armed Criminal Action statute, designed for adult offenders, mandates a punishment of imprisonment not less than three years. At the trial level, the circuit court struck the mandatory incarceration provision of Missouri’s Armed Criminal Action statute, as applied to juveniles, as unconstitutional. The State appealed to the Supreme Court of Missouri.

Juvenile Law Center filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of Missouri on behalf of Ms. Smiley. We argued that the application of Missouri’s Armed Criminal Action statute to juveniles is unconstitutional because it provides no opportunity to consider a juvenile’s reduced culpability, age, and related characteristics. Requiring a juvenile, no matter the facts of the offense or her individual culpability, to serve the same mandatory minimum three-year incarceration term as an adult convicted of the same offense contravenes current law and research.

Specifically, we argued that the Missouri Supreme Court should uphold the circuit court’s decision in light of the prevailing and uncontroverted scientific research about adolescent offending. Additionally, we argued that incarcerating juvenile offenders in adult facilities diminishes public safety and places youth at risk of severe harm.

In an en banc opinion, the Missouri Supreme Court dismissed the State's appeal.