Mandatory Michigan Sentencing Guidelines Eliminated

By February 26, 2016 January 5th, 2018 News

In People v Lockridge, 498 Mich 305 (2015), the Michigan Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the mandatory nature of the Michigan sentencing guidelines.

To remedy the unconstitutionality of the Michigan sentencing guidelines scheme, the Michigan Supreme Court did two things. First, it severed MCL 769.34(2) to omit the language that makes a guideline sentence mandatory. Second, it severed MCL 769.34(3) to omit the language that allows for a departure only upon substantial and compelling reasons found by the trial court.

Sentencing Guidelines Now Only Advisory

In effect after Lockridge, the Michigan sentencing guidelines are only advisory, not mandatory. However, the guidelines still must be scored and the trial court must take into account the guideline range when imposing sentence. But, after calculating and consulting the guidelines, Lockridge now allows judges to depart from them without articulating substantial and compelling reasons. Post­Lockridge, sentences need not be within the advisory guideline range, but they must be reasonable under principles of proportionality.

The ‘principle of proportionality test’ means that sentences must be proportionate to the seriousness of the circumstances surrounding the offense and the offender — and there are a number of factors that courts traditionally consider. Proportionality considerations under this new system in Michigan are now very similar to sentencing factors in the federal system, a system that the lawyers at Willey & Chamberlain have expertise working within.

Therefore, it is now more important than ever that defendants have vigorous and experienced counsel at sentencing to advocate for reasonable sentences, in addition to being able to adeptly work with the Michigan sentencing guidelines. The Grand Rapids lawyers at Willey & Chamberlain are experienced sentencing advocates, well versed in applying the ‘principles of proportionality’ to different defendants and different types of offenses in order to achieve the best result.

For more information about Michigan’s sentencing guidelines, or to learn more about the Grand Rapids attorneys at Willey & Chamberlain, please contact us here or call us directly at 616.458.2212.