Lawmakers in Michigan are putting the finishing touches on a four-strikes bill that would mandate a harsh mandatory minimum sentence for repeat offenders. The bill was passed by the Senate, and then slightly changed by the House. Now, the Senate is reviewing the changes and expected to pass it.
According to Bridge Magazine, the bill, known as VO-4, would prescribe a minimum 25 year sentence when someone commits a violent crime and has three prior felonies.
Supporters say the bill will go far to keep repeat and dangerous offenders off the streets. Opponents point out the multi-million dollar legislation isn’t only incredibly expensive—it’s useless and takes power from the judges and gives it to the prosecutors.
The bill mandates a 25 year term when enhancements already exist, allowing judges to increase the maximum sentence against the most violent criminals, and “effectively achieving the same result as mandatory minimums.”
Also, when mandatory minimum sentences come into play as in the VO-4, prosecutors hold the power—deciding when someone should be prosecuted under the new law, in essence determining the sentence someone will face. Because the sentence is “mandatory”, if the defendant is convicted, the judge’s hands are tied.
Judges are where they are to be the objective voice of the constitution in an adversarial system. They determine what is fair and in line with the laws of the land. But, more and more, prosecutors are holding all the power. They are deciding what someone should be charged with, and where mandatory minimums are present, this means they are determining the outcome of the case.
Still, those supporters who are “tough on crime” are selling the VO-4 law as something to keep everyone safe–playing on the fears of the public that without such harsh laws, we all run the risk of being victimized at every turn. True to form, they cite the most extreme cases of violence to prove their points, such as the repeat offender who carjacked a woman and repeatedly raped her in front of her child. Citing rare and disturbing cases like this make anyone who speaks out against the VO-4 law someone who simply doesn’t care about the people. It’s the old, “if you are not for us, you must be for the criminals” argument.
The bill is very likely to pass, further boosting Michigan’s already-high incarceration rate. Recently, the state topped the Pew Center’s list on average prison stays and spending. This law will only serve to increase both of those numbers.
If you are accused of a crime in the state of Michigan, you need someone fighting on your behalf—looking out for your rights. Contact our offices today to discuss your case and the options available to you.