Michigan Criminal Sentencing

Once you have been convicted of a crime the judge, will determine an appropriate sentence. There are several laws and guidelines establishing how a Michigan judge determines a sentence. What follows is an overview of Criminal Sentencing under Michigan Law.

You may be sentenced the same day that you’re determined to be guilty, or the judge may set a later date for sentencing.

Chances are that if you are facing prison time, you have been waiting in jail for your sentencing date. If so, sentencing can be a relief, allowing you to know for certain your fate and to come to terms with it.

What is going on while I am waiting for sentencing?

In Michigan pre-sentence investigations (PSI) are required for all convicted felons prior to sentencing. The PSI is conducted by a probation officer employed by the Michigan Department of Corrections and is designed to assist the judge in determining your sentence.

The PSI includes many things that will help a judge determine your stability and if leaving you in the community would be a good option. Any time probation or community sanctions are imposed instead of prison, a judge wants to be certain that you are a “good risk”, or not someone who is likely to harm society while in the community.

A PSI may include:

  • Family history
  • Psychological evaluation or history
  • Connections in the community
  • Employment history
  • Criminal history
  • Victim statements
  • Circumstances of the offense

The PSI is completed by a probation officer because they have experience dealing with offenders under community supervision and can often make a educated recommendation to the judge on your potential success or failure under supervision.

Does the judge always do what the investigating probation officer recommends?

No. The judge does take into consideration what the probation officer recommends, but doesn’t always follow his recommendations and is under no requirement to do so.

What kind of sentence am I facing?

What you will be sanctioned to depends on the type of crime you are convicted of. In general, misdemeanors carry less than one year in prison while felonies are anything that has the potential of more than one year in prison.

Some offenses have a certain sentence spelled out in statute. Most of them, however, give the judge a range or a minimum suggested sentence to go off of.

Sentencing Guidelines

In Michigan there are sentencing guidelines for judges to follow when they are sentencing offenders. While the guidelines are not mandatory, judges typically follow them.

The reason that judges follow the non-mandatory guideline is that if a judge imposes a sentence that is greater than the recommended guideline, an appellate court can overturn the sentence because of it being too harsh. Judges do not like their decisions overturned and typically stick to the guidelines for this reason.

The sentencing guidelines assign points for each crime. The point system allows a judge to glance at a chart and know what sentencing range you should be sentenced in. Prior convictions can increase your points, thereby increasing your sentence.

Sentencing guidelines in Michigan can be very confusing.  Our firm of experienced attorneys can assist you in determining what range a judge will most likely be sentencing you in.

Probation

Most likely you would prefer to serve your time under community supervision. Probation allows you to remain in the community while serving a sentence and abiding by probation “terms”. Often, when you are placed on probation instead of being sentenced to active time the judge will say that she is “suspending your sentence”.

A suspended sentence simply means that you will be supervised in the community but if you fail to live up to the terms of your supervision, your probation may be revoked and your prison sentence activated.

Some typical terms of probation include:

  • Regular meetings with approbation officer
  • Avoiding criminal behavior
  • Supervision fees
  • Curfews
  • Drug/alcohol treatment
  • Community service
  • Maintaining employment
  • Travel restrictions
  • Mental health evaluations or treatment

Depending on your crime and your risk level, harsher probationary terms such as house arrest, may be imposed by the judge or the probation officer.

Probation Revocation

If you violate the terms of your probation, there are several things your probation officer can do to try and gain control of the situation. Despite the way it may seem, the state of Michigan does not want your sentence activated.

If the probation violation is minor, your officer may add conditions to your probation. These conditions could be increasing your meetings, imposing curfews, or requiring you to attend additional treatment or counseling services. Many of these must be approved by a judge.

If the probation violation is serious or your officer has attempted to gain control and hasn’t had success, he can request a warrant be issued for your arrest. Once a probation warrant is issued and served you will have to go before a judge who may activate your original prison sentence.