Michigan Sentencing Guidelines

The Michigan Supreme Court issued a landmark opinion on July 29, 2015 holding that the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines are constitutionally deficient and no longer mandatory. In People of the State of Michigan v Lockridge, the majority of the Michigan Supreme Court held that Michigan’s Sentencing Guidelines are now only advisory in nature. In other words, a Sentencing Judge must take the Sentencing Guidelines into account, but need not follow them strictly. This ruling only applies to sentences handed down before July 29, 2015.

In the past, if the Sentencing Court wanted to deviate from the Sentencing Guidelines, either above or below the range offered, the Court had to articulate substantial and compelling reasons for the departure. The Lockridge opinion strikes this requirement. Now, if the Judge desires to deviate from the Sentencing Guidelines, she need not state substantial and compelling reasons for such a departure. However, a sentence that departs from the applicable guidelines range still must be reasonable. An Appellate Court reviewing a sentence that departs from the Sentencing Guidelines must still review it for reasonableness.

If a Defendant can demonstrate that his guidelines minimum sentence range was constrained by a violation of the Sixth Amendment and if his sentence was not subject to an upward departure, he could then establish a threshold showing of the potential for plain error sufficient to warrant a remand to the Trial Court for further inquiry. At that point, the Trial Court can determine whether it would have imposed a materially different sentence, but for the Constitutional error. Specifically, in order to make a showing of plain error that could require resentencing, the Defendant must demonstrate that his Sentencing Guidelines were calculated using facts beyond those found by the Jury or admitted to by the Defendant and that if those factors were taken into account, it could lower the Defendant’s guidelines minimum sentencing range. This requires complex legal consideration.

If you think you may be eligible for a re-determination by a Sentencing Court, please contact the Draper Law Firm at (313)885-6800 or info@thedraperfirm.com so we can discuss the case.