Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney News
Jail and Prison Sentences Below Sentencing Guidelines are Now Possible Without a Deviation
Michigan Sentencing Guidelines Are Now Advisory
On July 29, 2015, the Michigan Supreme Court dramatically changed the sentencing process in the State of Michigan and has opened the doors to sentencing results that were not possible before that date. In the case of People v Lockridge, the Michigan Supreme Court decided that the statutory sentencing guidelines were unconstitutional because they allowed a judge to set an offender’s earliest parole eligibility date on the basis of the Offense Variables, which in turn are based on facts that are not proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. The lawyers with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have been advocating for this position for years!
In order to understand the Lockridge decision and the advantage to defendants represented by top criminal defense lawyers, there must first be an understanding of the way sentences were determined prior to July 29, 2015. The sentencing guidelines mandated that a number/points were assigned to a set of factors that related to a defendant’s criminal background (Prior Record Variable) and another set of factors relating to the particular offense and its severity (Offense Variables). The overall points were put into a sentencing grid to determine a recommended minimum sentence for a particular defendant. If a judge wanted to exceed the guideline range, the judge must put on the record the reasons why.
The reason for the sentencing guidelines was to promote uniform sentences across Michigan.
The Michigan Supreme Court did not like the fact that part of the sentencing consideration (the offense variable) was done with no input from a jury or agreement of the defendant. Thus, the basis for the Lockridge decision.
Negatives and Positives of Michigan’s Sentencing Guidelines Changes
The Guidelines were initially drafted to promote uniform criminal sentences. So, an offender in Traverse City would get roughly the same sentence as an offender in Detroit if they had basically the same criminal history and committed the same offense.
The imposition of uniform sentencing will be much more difficult after Lockridge because now trial judges may impose minimum sentences on the basis of their own personal beliefs. The Lockridge decision has given trial judges more power by granting them unfettered discretion to choose a defendant’s earliest parole date unconstrained by guidelines.
The negative impact from the change will be felt by those defendants who are represented by criminal defense lawyers who do not have the skill, tenacity, and zealousness to fight for reduced sentences and, instead, just capitulate to “guideline” sentences. The POSITIVE for those individuals who were resourceful enough to hire a top criminal defense lawyer is that with hard work, creative thinking, and passionate advocacy, sentences below guidelines are now far more likely.
Sentencing is Often The Most Important Part of a Criminal Case
A well-prepared defense attorney at a sentencing hearing is often the difference between prison/jail or just probation. The attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have consistently defied the odds at achieving favorable sentences under the guidelines when they were mandatory. Now that the guidelines are only advisory, the criminal defense team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. will be able to achieve even more extraordinary sentence reductions for their clients.
There is no law firm or lawyer in Michigan who works harder or smarter when it comes to achieving the best possible outcome for a client. Judges that are no longer constrained by guidelines can really listen and use discretion, compassion, and yes, common sense when passing a sentence. The lawyers at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have made it their professional goal to make sure that every person that they represent are given the best possible defense available, as well as the best possible sentencing result. If you are facing misdemeanor or felony criminal charges, it is important that you contact the law firm of LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation, or complete a Request for Assistance Form and we will contact you promptly.