The sentencing hearing occurs after a defendant has been found guilty during a trial and usually occurs a few weeks after the trial has concluded or the defendant has entered a guilty plea. After a conviction, a number of things must be completed before an individual can be sentenced. For example, suppose the defendant was convicted of a felony. In that case, a parole officer must complete a pre-sentencing report for the judge to review before a sentence is handed down.
Under Michigan law, before a court sentence, for someone charged with a felony, a probation officer is required to provide a report in writing to the court. The presentencing report is an evaluation of the defendant’s ability to adjust in the community based on the factual information contained in the report and shall include the following:
- Victim impact statements if the victim requests them
- A written disposition based on the evaluation
- A statement written by the prosecuting attorney regarding consecutive sentencing requirements or requests
- The minimum and the maximum sentence for the crimes committed
The probation officer is required to review the case, interview the defendant, and interview any witnesses or victims of the crime to create the report. During the interview with the probation officer, you are required to answer honestly, or you may face additional penalties. However, it is a good idea to provide any positive information about your situation, such as character statements from people who know you, proof of employment, enrollment in school, counseling, or treatment.
Right Of Allocution
The right to allocution is the right to speak to the sentencing judge before a criminal sentence is rendered. Allocution is extremely important for misdemeanors sentencing because there are no formal guidelines that a judge must follow. This is because the defendant should attempt to humanize themselves. Additionally, the defendant should demonstrate that the defendant is ready to make a change and that their incarceration will hurt the defendant’s family. While speaking to the judge after a conviction may seem pointless, it can become extremely important because it may greatly impact the sentence.
Read more in our blog: Are Misdemeanors Actually a Big Deal?
Indeterminate Sentencing System
In Michigan, for felony cases, the court system uses what is called the indeterminate sentencing system. The indeterminate sentencing system means that a judge sets both a minimum and maximum sentence. The minimum penalty is the date on which the defendant will become eligible for parole and the earliest they may be released into society. The Parole Board in Michigan will decide whether the defendant will be released after they serve their minimum sentence. If the Parole Board determines that the defendant should not be released, they can continue to deny parole until the defendant has served their maximum sentence, at which point they must be released.
Typically, the maximum sentence is set by statute, and the judge does not have the discretion to alter it. For example, under Michigan law, first-degree home invasion is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, meaning that the maximum sentence imposed will be 20 years, and the judge has no discretion in changing the maximum sentence. The judge sets the minimum sentence by reference to the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines, which provides an outline for each grade of each defendant based on their prior record and the circumstances of the crime. The purpose of this is to bring uniformity to sentences and ensure that people are treated equally regardless of circumstances.
Under Michigan law, guidelines divide felonies into eight classes which range from A (the most serious) to H (the least serious). Under the guidelines, there are grids referred to as OV levels and PRV levels. OV stands for offense variable, and PRV stands for prior record variable. The PVR looks at an individual previous criminal record and gives them points based on a conviction that occurred before the sentencing offense was committed. At the same time, OV provides points based on the egregiousness of the crime for the defendant being sentenced. For example, 25 points will be added to the OV level if a firearm was discharged at someone. The higher the points, the more severe the penalty.
Sentencing Outside Of The Guideline Range
When it comes to felony sentencing, the judge cannot sentence outside of the guidelines because of the scrutiny that will follow. For example, a judge does have the discretion to sentence an individual to what they believe is fair; however, if that does not fall within the guideline range, it may be appealed and overturned. As a result, most judges will follow the guidelines to ensure their capacity as judges is not called into question and so that people are sentenced in uniformity.
Hiring A Criminal Defense Attorney For The Sentencing Hearing
If you or someone you know has been convicted of a crime, there is still time to contact an attorney for the sentencing hearing. Sometimes individuals fire their attorney or represent themselves during the trial phase of the criminal process; if that happens and there is a conviction, it is essential and not too late to hire an attorney for the sentencing portion of the criminal process. During the sentencing, an experienced attorney will help defend their client and attempt to minimize the penalties implemented against them. To speak to one of our experienced attorneys, contact us at George Law by calling us at (248) 247-7459 or by filling out our form online.