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The Justice System: Three Strikes and You’re Out

| Nov 18, 2012 | The Justice System |

In 2012, Michigan’s legislature passed Senate Bill 1109, enacting Public Act 319 amending Section 769.12 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. More commonly referred to as the three strikes law, the change updated sentencing guidelines to crack down on habitual offenders, specifically habitual felony offenders. This took effect on October 1, 2012.

Since then, judges have applied habitual offender status enhancements approximately 8,632 times per year, according to an article from Safe & Just Michigan. This is in stark contrast to the estimate at the time of the law’s passing that it would only be applied to about 25 prisoners each year. Perhaps not surprisingly, Oakland County judges have applied these enhancements more frequently than most Michigan counties – in 71.8 percent of eligible cases.

If you have been accused of a serious felony and have previous convictions, there is a chance that you could be charged under the three strikes law, making it all the more important that you enlist an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Call 248-918-0790 for a free consultation.

Three Strikes Or Four?

While it is commonly referred to as the three strikes law, that name is misleading. The law actually applies to an individual convicted of a fourth felony. The new law exposes the individual who is convicted of a fourth felony offense to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of at least 25 years. The law also allows for extending the maximum sentence.

However, in order for the habitual offender sentencing enhancement to be imposed, the fourth habitual offense must be a “serious crime.”

What Is Considered A Serious Crime In Michigan?

The law sets forth specific guidelines for judges and prosecutors to follow when enforcing it. The statute specifies that a person must be convicted of one of seventeen serious crimes that are listed in the statute itself. They include homicide, assault with intent, such as assault with intent to commit great bodily harm, and criminal sexual conduct. Being convicted of one of the seventeen listed serious felony crimes, or their equivalent conspiracies, will trigger the enforcement of the 25-year mandatory minimum sentence.

Which Previous Convictions Count As A Strike?

The second part of the three strikes law deals with the prior convictions. Under the law, one of the prior three convictions must fall within a second list of approximately forty-seven crimes. The second list of crimes in the statute includes those mentioned above. It also adds crimes like home invasion, intentional discharge of a firearm, or any drug offense that is punishable by more than four years. Conviction for an attempt to commit one of these crimes also counts.

The new law goes further to include a section for habitual enhancement. Habitual enhancement refers to the courts ability to include prior offenses that received a juvenile sentence. So, if you are thinking that the new law may not apply to you because one of your prior cases was committed under the age of majority, that may not be the case. The prosecuting attorney or the judge can still use juvenile adjudications to enforce the new law if they want to.

Should This Law Be Reformed?

While Michigan’s habitual offender law is not even a decade old, there are already many parties pushing for reform. This is part of a larger, continuing effort to make Michigan’s justice system more just.

According to an article from Michigan Radio, State Senator Sylvia Santana is among the Michigan legislators pushing for criminal justice reform. She argues that the habitual offender law combined with the truth in sentencing law, which requires that people convicted of crimes serve the full minimum prison term before being considered for parole, create excessively long prison sentences that do little to help public safety.

What Should You Do If You Are Charged?

Time will tell if those pushing for a change to the habitual offender law will achieve their goal in the coming years. Until then, those with a criminal history who face new charges need to proceed with caution. Taking immediate action and calling an experienced attorney means that your rights will be protected from the very start. Call or email for a free consultation.