Michigan Sentencing Attorneys
Different Sentencing Options in Michigan – 7411, Delayed Sentencing, Probation, Parole, HYTA, Special Courts, and Boot Camp
In Michigan, one of the most critical parts of a criminal case is the sentencing hearing.
If a criminal defendant has plead guilty as part of a plea agreement with the prosecutor, it may be known exactly what his or her sentence (or range of sentence) will be before the plea. However, if the defendant is found guilty by a judge or jury after a trial, it is more difficult to know what the sentence will be. There are many factors that go into determining a defendant’s sentence.
In Michigan, crimes are either misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanors are crimes that result in a potential jail sentence of no more than one year, while felonies result in a potential prison sentence of more than one year. There are also a small number of crimes that are referred to as high court misdemeanors. During sentencing, these cases are treated like felony cases.
A judge orders the defendant’s sentence either on the day the defendant is found guilty or at a sentencing hearing that takes place on a later date. For misdemeanor cases, the judge can choose to sentence the defendant quickly. However, for felony convictions, the judge cannot sentence the defendant until after the judge gets a pre-sentence report from the probation department. Sometimes judges choose to get the pre-sentence investigation report (PSI report) in misdemeanor cases too. At the sentencing, Crime victims will be allowed to speak at the sentencing hearing if they choose.
For all Michigan felony cases, in order to prepare the PSI, a probation officer reviews things such as the defendant’s criminal history, the defendant’s employment history, statements from the victim, the circumstances of the defendant’s crime, and more. That information then goes into the PSI along with the probation department’s recommendations on what the defendant’s sentence should be. The judge reviews the PSI before making his or her ruling on the defendant’s sentence. Because Circuit Court probation agents are employees of the Michigan Department of Corrections, it is common that the reports written by them are overly slanted against defendants. Sometimes these PSI reports say nothing positive at all about the defendant. Getting additional information to the judge that sheds a positive light on the defendant is then left to the defendant’s attorney.
When it comes to jail or prison time, the law tells the maximum possible penalty for being convicted of violating that law. It is then left up to the judge to decide whether a sentence should be for less time than the maximum imposed by law. However, for all felony cases, judges must look at the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines to help determine the defendant’s actual minimum sentence. For defendants sent to prison, the judge will impose a sentence that is actually a range of time. The low end of the sentence will normally be whatever is indicated in the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines. At the high end of the sentence will be the maximum penalty based on the statute dealing with that particular crime. For example, a prison sentence in Michigan for felonious assault might be “from two years to four years in the Michigan Department of Corrections.” That means that four years is the statutory maximum penalty imposed in the felonious assault statute. The “two years” would be the minimum or lower end of the sentence and is based on the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines. In that case, a defendant would serve anywhere from two year to four years in prison. The defendant could not be released from prison in less than two years and could not be kept in prison for more than four years. The actual release date from prison is determined by the parole board.
The Michigan Sentencing Guidelines is a system that factors in many things to determine what the minimum imprisonment (“the low end” or the “mandatory minimum”) sentence should be for a particular defendant. Some of what is factored in includes the defendant’s criminal history, what type of crime the defendant committed, and the severity of the crime the defendant committed. Judges rarely deviate from the prison sentence determined by the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines, but they are allowed to do so if there are “substantial and compelling” reasons. As you can imagine, some of the determinations under the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines are subjective so having an experienced attorney fighting for the defendant during the sentencing phase of a case is critical. An experienced criminal defense attorney may argue that the things that factor into a sentence should be calculated differently so that the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines recommend a lower minimum prison sentence. The lawyer can also argue that the judge should deviate lower from the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines and that the defendant should instead be given punishments like community service and the payment of fines if that is permitted under the law.
With all that being said, there are some special sentencing issues that sometimes arise in Michigan criminal cases. These include the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (“HYTA”), “7411,” delayed sentences, probation, parole, special courts, and boot camp.
Michigan Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (“HYTA”)
The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, or “HYTA,” is a deferred sentence scheme in Michigan. HYTA is sometimes called YTA and it applies to defendants who are age 17 through 20 when they committed a crime, and to defendants as young as age 15 who have been charged in adult court. The defendant must plead guilty to the crime in order to be granted HYTA status. The judge will then instruct the defendant to follow a number of orders or terms of probation. If the defendant follows all the judge’s orders, the defendant will not be convicted of the crime and the crime will not go onto the defendant’s criminal record. However, if the defendant does not follow all the judge’s orders, the defendant may no longer have HYTA status and the sentencing will continue, including additions to the defendant’s criminal record. HYTA may be granted to a defendant more than once, but judges usually only grant it one time. HYTA cannot be granted for major controlled substance offenses, traffic offenses, or felony charges for which the maximum penalty is lifetime imprisonment in Michigan.
While pleading guilty is usually not something we recommend, if a client qualifies for HYTA and shows the ability to follow the judge’s orders, it may be the best option. As with most other portions of the law, there are dangerous pitfalls to deal with. Our criminal defense team has decades of experience dealing HYTA cases. If you are eligible for this special sentencing, you should hire an attorney to walk you through the process and advise you on HYTA.
Michigan 7411 Sentencing
The name “7411” or “Seventy-Four Eleven” comes from the Michigan statute number for this law: MCL 333.7411. Like HYTA, 7411 is also a deferred sentence scheme. However, 7411 only applies to certain drug crimes and can usually only be used once in a lifetime. The defendant must plead guilty or be found guilty of the drug crime and then follow a set of orders from the judge, such as payment to the court to cover the defendant’s probation or attendance at a drug rehab program. If the defendant follows the judge’s orders, the defendant is never actually charged with the drug crime and thus there is no addition to the defendant’s public criminal record. However, if the defendant does not follow the judge’s orders, the defendant is charged with the drug crime and sentencing will occur, which will include an addition to the defendant’s public criminal record.
If you have been charged with a drug crime, 7411 may be a good option for you. We recommend that you seek advice from experienced lawyers before you do anything.
Michigan Delayed Sentences
A judge in Michigan may grant a defendant a delayed sentence after the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty of a crime if the defendant can prove to the judge that: (1) the defendant is not likely to commit another crime, and (2) that the public good would not require the defendant be immediately sentenced. A delayed sentence allows the judge to hold off sentencing the defendant for up to one year. During that time, the defendant can prove to the judge that it would be better if the judge gave the defendant a lesser sentence, such as probation instead of being locked up. The defendant is placed on probation and must follow certain terms, such as paying supervision fees or no alcohol consumption. If the defendant violates the terms of the delayed sentence, the judge can immediately sentence the defendant for his or her crime. Unlike HYTA and 7411, the crime still enters onto the defendant’s public criminal record, even if the defendant does complete all the terms of the delayed sentence. The advantage of a delayed sentence is that if the defendant can prove he or she has rehabilitated himself or herself, the judge may order a lighter sentence than the judge originally would have had the defendant been sentenced immediately following the crime. Delayed sentencing does not apply to murder, treason, armed robbery, major controlled substance offenses, and criminal sexual conduct in the first or third degree.
Asking for a delayed sentence can be a good trial strategy in some cases. There are traps to be avoided with delayed sentencing but an aggressive Michigan criminal attorney understands the ins and outs of this process. If you want to ask the judge for a delayed sentence, you need an aggressive criminal lawyer fighting on your side.
Probation in Michigan
Similar to a delayed sentence, in order for the defendant to the placed on probation in Michigan, the defendant must prove to the judge that: (1) the defendant is not likely to commit another crime, and (2) that it would be best for the public good for the defendant to be sentenced to probation. The maximum allowable probation sentence for most felonies is five years and for most misdemeanors is two years. Probation cannot be granted for treason, murder, major controlled substance offenses, criminal sexual conduct in the first or third degree, or armed robbery.
At the time the judge orders probation, the judge will decide the length and terms or conditions of the defendant’s probation, though the court can change those things at any time. The court can impose any lawful terms or conditions of probation, including jail time, regular meetings with a probation officer, payment of fees, the inability to leave Michigan without the court’s permission, rehab, community service, completion of a high school education, and house arrest. Certain crimes require specific terms of probation, such as that a defendant convicted of a sex crime cannot live, work, or spend time near a school while on probation. Regardless of the conditions or terms of probation that the judge orders the defendant to complete, it is important that the defendant complete them. This is because breaking any of the terms or conditions of probation can lead to a probation violation conviction. A judge can then revoke the probation and sentence the defendant to jail or prison time.
If you have a probation issue, you need an attorney who is experienced in dealing with sentencing in Michigan. Our defense team also handles many cases of probation violations in Michigan courts.
When a person is sentenced to prison for a felony offense in Michigan, they are eligible for parole once they have served at least the minimum portion of their sentence. The decision to parole a prisoner is made by a vote of the Michigan Parole and Commutation Board. The Parole Board only approves parole if the members of the Parole Board have a reasonable assurance that the prisoner will not become a menace to society or a risk to the public safety. The Parole Board views all the facts and circumstances surrounding the prisoner in order to make this determination. The Department of Corrections conducts an investigation and must approve the defendant’s future residence, employment, education, and treatment plans before the defendant can leave the prison. While on parole, the defendant must follow strict terms and conditions of the parole or the defendant (inmate) is likely to receive more conditions or end up back in prison. While out on parole, the inmate is still deemed to be incarcerated.
Parole in Michigan can be confusing and we recommend hiring an experienced attorney to help with this process.
Michigan Special Courts
A new trend in Michigan is the creation of “special courts” or “therapeutic courts” that are better able to cater to a defendant’s needs and problems.
Drug Treatment Courts and Alcohol Treatment Courts: Many counties in Michigan now have drug treatment courts. These courts recognize that drug addiction and criminal activity go hand-in-hand and focus on helping the defendant with drug addiction as well as punishing the defendant for a crime. To qualify for drug treatment court, the defendant must plead guilty to the crime and waive certain rights. While in drug treatment court, the defendant must complete a number of extra requirements, which could include random drug tests, drug support groups, a nightly curfew, completion of a high school education, payment of participation fees, and more.
Juvenile Courts: Another special court in Michigan is the juvenile court. These courts focus on defendants who have committed a crime but who are not old enough or mature enough to be charged in regular adult court. Judges in juvenile court usually have extra experience dealing with minors.
Veteran’s Courts: There are also special courts that cater only to veterans of the military. Judges who preside over these courts understand that some veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and that this disorder could cause veterans to become addicted to drugs or alcohol and commit a crime.
If you are interested in one of these special courts, consult with an attorney to see if it these courts are good options for you. Many times, defendants are coerced into these special court programs before they even have a chance to meet with a criminal defense attorney to determine what good options exist for them.
Michigan’s boot camp is part of a program called Special Alternative Incarceration (“SAI”). There are only a few spaces in the SAI program, so only a few defendants get placed in this program each year. Participation in the SAI program may be part of a defendant’s probation or prison sentence if certain conditions have been met. A defendant’s involvement with the SAI program is voluntary.
The SAI program is broken down into three phases:
Boot camp: Boot camp is the first phase of the SAI program. The main goal of boot camp is to mold the participants into law-abiding and productive members of society. Boot camp participants receive military-style training consisting of strenuous physical exercise, a tight schedule, and a regimented diet. This training strips the participants of their pride and makes them a better fit for society. All participants receive training in life skills, and participants who do not have formal education receive training to complete their GEDs. The length of the stay at boot camp cannot be longer than 120 days.
Residential rehabilitation facility: In the second phase of the Michigan SAI program, if a judge believes a participant needs additional assistance, the judge can order the participant to stay in residential treatment for up to 120 days. This is sometimes called a “halfway house.”
Probation or parole: The third phase of the SAI program is when the participant lives at home but is placed on probation or parole. At least the first 120 days of a probation or parole period are under intense supervision, which could mean almost daily visits with a probation officer or a parole officer.
For some people, the SAI program is a good option. For others, boot camp is a road to failure. Consult with an attorney to find out if this is right for you.
Your criminal defense attorneys
As you can see, there are many, many considerations that go into a sentencing decision in Michigan. You should hire a very experienced attorney to represent you in this process and throughout your involvement with the court system. At Kronzek & Cronkright, our attorneys have over 80 years of combined experience representing criminal defendants all over Michigan. We have a successful track record of navigating our clients through the sentencing process and receiving favorable results.
Contact us today! We answer the phones all day and all night at (866) 766-5245!