On January 4, 2021, Governor Whitmer signed a series of bills on criminal justice reform.  (Senate Bills 1046-1050).  These bills go in effect today, April 1, 2021. The focus of this blog will be on Senate Bill 1050 related to probation.  The bill was introduced in the summer of 2020 to reduce the maximum probation sentence from five year to three years for felonies, plus one additional year if a court found it would serve a “specific rehabilitation goal.”  The bill also limits sentences for probation violations.

The bill limits the length of probation on felonies to three years.  The former statute allows any felony in include a maximum of five years of probation.  The three-year term under the new law may be extended two times for no more than one additional year if the court finds that there is a specific rehabilitation goal that has not been achieved or a specific, articulable, and ongoing risk to a victim that can be address with ongoing supervision.

In addition to limiting the length of probation, the new law also creates the option of early discharge from probation once a probationer has served half the term for felony and misdemeanor probation.  This may be granted without a hearing.  There is an exception – some offenses involving a victim will require a hearing if the victim has requested to receive notice of discharge.  The statute lists specific offenses that are excluded from early discharge.

Lastly, the bill addresses how courts are to handle violations of probations.  A technical violation means a violation of the individuals probation order.  A technical violation does not include a violation of a no-contact order; a new violation of law; use of alcohol while on felony DUI probation; or, absconding.  The remainder of possible violations should be considered technical violations.  For those on felony probation, jail is not mandatory.  If jail is ordered, the new statute limits how much jail an individual may be ordered to serve.  For a first violation, jail cannot be more than 15 days.  This increases by 15 days for a second or third technical violation.  If there is a fourth technical violation, the court may impose a jail or prison sentence not to exceed the total remaining days eligible for a jail or prison sentence.  Lastly, the statute directs courts to issue summons, rather than arrests warrants, when requiring appearance for technical violations.

As with many laws, there are exceptions to these changes based on the underlying offense of conviction or the type of probation violation involved.  The detail can be found at MCL 771.2 or contact the criminal lawyers at Willey & Chamberlain if you have questions.

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