Sentencing in Felony Cases Just Got More Complicated
The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines are unconstitutional unless they are considered advisory. A creative, intelligent, savvy defense lawyer now has a great advantage when advocating for a lenient sentence.
Michigan Sentence Guidelines are Advisory
Sentencing in felony cases in Michigan was seriously changed with the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision in People v Lockridge, 498 Mich 358, 399; 870 NW2d 502 (2015). See Michigan Sentencing Guidelines are now Discretionary. Lockridge can be either good or bad for criminal defendants. Lockridge held that a judge could go under or over the suggested guidelines depending on individual circumstances.
The sentencing guidelines factor in a person’s prior criminal record (PRV), as well as facts about the specific charge (OV). Each category is given a set of points. These points are inserted into a grid, ultimately determining the sentencing guidelines. There can be an argument if the computations are disputed. After Lockridge, supra, the court must still review the guidelines but is not bound by them at sentencing on a felony case.
Since the Lockridge case determined that the sentencing court has committed plain error when it calculates on OV score “using facts beyond those found by the jury or admitted by the defendant” if that miscalculation “would change the applicable guidelines minimum sentence range.” In the case of People v Blevins, decided in February 2016, the defendant argued that OV5 (serious psychological injury to the victim’s family may require professional treatment) could be scored 0 or 15. The only evidence of psychological injury was presented at sentencing. The Court of Appeals determined that there was no evidence presented to a jury or admitted by the defendant relative to serious psychological injury, AND the error would change the guidelines; therefore, the score must be zero at sentencing on the felony case.
Can a judge sentence the defendant below sentencing guidelines in a felony case?
Following Lockridge, it is easier for a judge to determine that a below-guidelines sentence is appropriate in a felony case. A variance or departure below guidelines in a felony sentencing requires a reasonable explanation based on objective facts. This is a far lower bar than the previous burden called “substantial and compelling reasons.” A persuasive, reputable defense lawyer is essential because judges now have greater discretion and latitude when determining an appropriate sentence. If a lawyer puts up a zealous, credible fight for a lenient sentence, a judge has more room now to vary the sentence than ever before.
Probation Violation Sentencing in a Felony Case
If the judge sentenced the defendant to probation, they were ordered to follow a set of rules called “terms and conditions of probation.” If there is an allegation of violating the rules, it is called a probation violation. If convicted by plea or trial, a defendant faces sentencing again for the original offense and under the original sentencing guidelines.
Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney For Help With Sentencing in Felony Cases
LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. is one of Michigan’s premier criminal defense law firms. Our attorneys keep current on changes in the law and are well versed in dealing with sentencing issues. The firm’s attorneys have decades of experience practicing only criminal law. The attorneys are well respected by their peers, former clients, and judges alike. LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. was founded on the principle that everyone deserves a fair trial and has their rights protected and be fought for in court passionately, tenaciously, and fearlessly. The firm takes great pride in its record of success. If you face criminal charges or need help for sentencing in a felony case, please call LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete a Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.