What does a life sentence mean? 53 Answers as of June 19, 2013

My friend has a life sentence. What does a life sentence mean?

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Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider
Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider | Peter Goldscheider
It depends what kind of life sentence it is. In California most life sentences are "life tops" with a minimum to be served as well. A straight life sentence which is now rare allows for parole in 7 years.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 7/5/2012
Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC
Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC | Jacob Peter Sartz IV
"Life" means the maximum possible penalty is spending their remaining life in prison; a "indeterminate" term of years. The bigger issue the minimum possible sentence because that will determine when the person may be eligible for parole.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 6/11/2012
Craig W. Elhart, P.C.
Craig W. Elhart, P.C. | Craig Elhart
In Michigan, a life sentence consists of two possible scenarios. Life sentence with parole means that a parole board can determine after a number of years if the person is eligible to leave prison. Mandatory means that the person will not have the opportunity to leave unless DNA later determines that the person did not commit the crime.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 3/13/2012
Law Office of Christopher G Humphrey PC | Christopher G Humphrey
In Wyoming, there are 2 different possibilities: 1) life & 2) life without the possibility of parole. Regular life sentences are life, unless the governor of Wyoming commutes the sentence to a term of years. So, unless the governor of Wyoming were to make the sentence less than life, your friend will serve life. Life without the possibility of parole is where even the governor cannot help your friend outside of a complete Governor's pardon. These are very rare.
Answer Applies to: Wyoming
Replied: 3/12/2012
Edward  D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law
Edward D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law | Edward D. Dowling IV
This is a very general question without any mentions of facts or circumstances so my answer has to be very general as well- a life sentnece generally means you are in prison for the rest of your natural life unless you are eligible for parole.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 3/12/2012
    Law Office of Roianne H. Conner
    Law Office of Roianne H. Conner | Roianne Houlton Conner
    In the federal court system it means "until you die". In the state system is depends on the crime, if it a sexually based offense it means "until death". However, if it is not a crime of violence a person could be considered for parole after ten years.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC
    Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC | Lacy Fields
    In Missouri, "life" is 35 years.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    William L. Welch, III Attorney | William L. Welch, III
    Life means that the person is committed to the Division of Corrections for the rest of his or her natural life, unless the Parole Commission recommends to the Governor that the prisoner be paroled. As a practical political matter, even when the Commission recommends paroling a "lifer," no governor in recent memory has granted it. Governors do not win elections by paroling people who are serving life sentences. Therefore, it does not happen.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Law Office of Richard Williams
    Law Office of Richard Williams | Richard Williams
    A life sentence could mean that your friend will not leave prison until he is deceased. If the sentence is life with the possibility of parole it means that after having approximately ten (10) years he should be eligible for a parole hearing and the possibility of parole. If the sentence is life without the possibility of a pardon or parole, he is ineligible for release under almost any condition.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Law Office of Jared C. Winter
    Law Office of Jared C. Winter | Jared C. Winter
    It depends on whether he was sentenced to Life Without Parole, or Life With Parole. If his sentence is without the possibility of parole, he will not be released from prison unless his case is overturned. If his sentence is life with the possibility of parole, he can be released if the parole board approves (which does not happen often).
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Myles Hahn III Attorney at Law | Myles Hahn III
    Generally, that he must serve the rest of his life in prison. An attorney would need to fully investigate the case to see if any exceptions may apply.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Dunnings Law Firm
    Dunnings Law Firm | Steven Dunnings
    Are you really as dense as your question suggests?
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/19/2013
    Law Offices of George Woodworth & Associates
    Law Offices of George Woodworth & Associates | George Woodworth
    Usually this means that you remain in jail for the rest of your life if not released by the Parole Board. Many "Life" crimes have particular sentences that require a minimum amount of time in prison before you can become eligible for parole.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Lisa Mulligan Law Offices, LLC
    Lisa Mulligan Law Offices, LLC | Lisa Mulligan
    I'm sorry to hear about your friends situation. In Washington, people can either end up with so much time that it is simply called "life" because no one could make it through the sentence alive, or they can be sentenced to life without the possibility for parole (lwop). Lwop is a punishment that is reserved for people who have been convicted of aggravated murder or who have had "struck out" after getting 3 strike offenses or 2 sex offenses.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    The Law Office of Stephanie M. Arrache
    The Law Office of Stephanie M. Arrache | Stephanie Arrache
    Means he or she will be in jail for a very long time until being able to go in front of the parole board to try to get released. They should be on their best behavior to look good in front of the board.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Law Offices of Douglas J. Lindsay
    Law Offices of Douglas J. Lindsay | Douglas J. Lindsay
    You need to review the Judgment of Sentence that was issued by the sentencing Court. The language of the Judgment of Sentence speaks for itself. A life sentence could result in a number of scenarios. Why not contact the attorney or his/her office that represented your friend, for a specific explanation?
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Timothy J. Thill P.C.
    Timothy J. Thill P.C. | Timothy J. Thill
    In Illinois, a life sentence means life without parole, otherwise, a set amount of years is assessed in sentencing. In other states, there may be parole opportunities, however, you would have to contact an attorney is said state for further information.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    A life sentence is of essentially two types. One is life without the possibility of parole. That means exactly what it says. No release ever. One will die in prison. Just a life term means that one may or may not get out ever. The board of prison terms decides when the defendnt is to be released. There may be minimum times that have to be served first. Three strikes is 25 to life. So one does the 25 before he or she is considered for release.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Law Offices of Amy C. Settlemire | Amy C. Settlemire
    It depends on when the person was sentenced. If the sentence was within the last 10-12 years, life means *life* without the possibility of parole. If it was more than 12 years ago, the person may be eligible for what was called "control release" which is virtually the same as parole. The person should appeal and if that has been done and denied, file a post conviction motion alleging ineffective assistance of counsel.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law | Mark Thiessen
    That's he's in jail for 99 years or until he dies or gets pardoned or someone gets him out. Basically he's there forever and they will not forcibly kill him.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Law office of Robert D. Scott | Robert Scott
    A life sentence means incarceration for the rest of one's life, unless the parole board or governor determines that a shorter period may be sufficient.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S.
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S. | Steve Freeborn
    "Life" generally means for the rest of the person's life. What exactly was the sentence? Was it a life sentence with the possibility of parole after a certain number of years? Which means after the passage of that number of years, your friend could petition the court/probation board/department of corrections for an early release. It may or may not be granted. If it is a life sentence "without the possibility of parole", then your friend is never going to leave prison and will die there. I would need top see the sentencing order to better understand your friend's sentence. You may wish to consult with an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
    Just what it says...Life. Unless there is a parole eligibility set, whereby a parole board would be able to release the offender after serving a minimum amount of time.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Law & Mediation Office of Jeffrey L. Pollock, Esq.
    Law & Mediation Office of Jeffrey L. Pollock, Esq. | Jeffrey Lawrence Pollock
    Life means Life in PA.
    Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Nelson & Lawless
    Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
    Life means he may have the possibility of parole at some point in the distant future; the court orders on his sentencing will define that. Read them. Life without possibility of parole means exactly what it says he'll die in prison.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Germaine & Blaszka, P.A.
    Germaine & Blaszka, P.A. | Donald L. Blaszka, Jr.
    In New Hampshire, if you receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole, it means that you spend the rest of your life in prison.
    Answer Applies to: New Hampshire
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Kelly A. Broadbent, Esq.
    Kelly A. Broadbent, Esq. | Kelly Broadbent
    It basically means that your friend could spend the remainder of his life in jail. If the sentence included life plus one day, he would not be eligible for parole. Otherwise, at some point he may be elligible for parole.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Jason Overton, Attorney at Law
    Jason Overton, Attorney at Law | Jason Overton
    It means he is sentenced to serve the rest of his life in prison.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Law Office of Kathryn L. Hudson
    Law Office of Kathryn L. Hudson | Kathryn L. Hudson
    In most states a life sentence does not go beyond 40 years which means a person could be paroled after serving a substantial portion of their sentence, usually 75%. Arkansas is one of the few states where a life sentence means the natural life of the person. If your friend has a life sentence without the possibility of parole he will be in prison the rest of his life.
    Answer Applies to: Arkansas
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    Depends if it carries the possibility of parole or not.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Law Office of Joe Dane
    Law Office of Joe Dane | Joe Dane
    A "life" sentence is just that. Life. They are eligible for parole after 7 years. Whether they get paroled or not is another story. If it's life without the possibility of parole, then it's life. If it's something to life, then they must serve that number of years before being eligible for parole (such as a 15-life sentence - they serve 15 before being eligible for parole.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/12/2012
    Reeves Law Firm, P.C.
    Reeves Law Firm, P.C. | Roy L. Reeves
    In Texas, Life means "until he is no longer living" i.e.: he will be in prison until he dies or is paroled. A life sentence is different from a number of years in that with a number of years, the individual has a certain number of years of prison that will complete the sentence - he may be paroled before that date, he may die before that date, but assuming he is alive and not paroled, he will be set free on that date. Life on the other hand is indeterminate. It is permanent with no end in sight.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 3/10/2012
    Vargas Law Office LLC | Ronnie Ismael Vargas
    A life sentence means that your friend will spend the rest of his adult life incarcerated.
    Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
    Replied: 3/10/2012
    Connell-Savela
    Connell-Savela | Jason Savela
    In Colorado it means life without parole.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 3/10/2012
    Hedges & Tumposky
    Hedges & Tumposky | Michael Tumposky
    It could mean life without parole or life with parole after 15 years.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 3/9/2012
    Michael Breczinski
    Michael Breczinski | Michael Breczinski
    In Michigan there are two types of life sentences. The first is parolable life an after a number years th parole board will start considering him for parole. This does not mean he will get it just that he will be eligible for parole. The other is Mandatory Life and the person stays in prison for life or until a governor pardons him.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 3/9/2012
    Gutin and Wolverton
    Gutin and Wolverton | Harley Gutin
    A life sentence, in Florida, usually means that person will spend the rest of their life in prison.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 3/9/2012
    Kershinik Law, PLLC
    Kershinik Law, PLLC | Patrick Kershisnik
    A life sentence means that you are sentenced to prison for the remainder of your life. If you live for 40 years, your prison term will be 40 years. If you only live 20 years, your sentence will last that long.
    Answer Applies to: Idaho
    Replied: 3/9/2012
    Robert Valles and Associates P.C.
    Robert Valles and Associates P.C. | Robert Valles Jr.
    Most likely life in prison without parole.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 3/9/2012
    Andersen Law PLLC
    Andersen Law PLLC | Craig Andersen
    It depends on the crime but a life sentence in Washington generally means you die in prison. You would have to look at your friends felony judgment and sentence to see exactly what his sentence is but a life sentence generally means you did something bad enough that you can't be trusted to live in society any longer.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 3/9/2012
    Law Office of Brian K. Wanerman
    Law Office of Brian K. Wanerman | Brian K. Wanerman
    There are two types of life sentences: Life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) and Life with the possibility of parole. If your friend was sentenced to the former, he will spend the rest of his life in prison. He will never get out unless he were to receive a Presidential pardon, clemency from the state governor, or new evidence is uncovered that subsequently exonerates him. If he was sentenced to life with parole, he will have to serve a minimum amount of time in prison. The amount depends on which crime he was convicted of. If he's already been received into the prison system, he should have received a minimum eligible parole date (MEPD) which is the earliest date that he could possibly be paroled. Here in California, he must be given a parole hearing at least 12 months prior to this MEPD. The mere fact that he has been granted a parole hearing is no guarantee of parole. In fact, only a tiny fraction of inmates get parole at their first hearing. To get parole, your friend would have to convince the parole board that he will not pose a threat to society if released. There are many factors that go into this decision. But, the main one is whether he understands the factors that drove him to commit the crime and that he's done things while in prison to eliminate them. If parole is denied at his first hearing, he will not get another hearing for several years. The hearing panel will decide how many. In California, under Marsy's law, each denial can be as long as fifteen years. So, the short answer is that your friend can expect to spend many years in prison. If he wants to get paroled, he needs to avoid getting disciplinary write ups while in prison and do things to show the parole board that he has developed "insight" into his crime. However, parole is not a right and he has no guarantee of ever getting paroled. As long as the board remains unconvinced that he is no longer a threat, they can keep him in prison until he dies. In California, your friend is entitled to appointment of an attorney at state expense to represent him at his parole hearings. Or, he can retain private counsel to represent him.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/9/2012
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