Michigan Sentencing: Beware the Upward Departure

In a prior blog, we talked about the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines. In this post, we will discuss an example of how a court may be persuaded to sentence outside of the guidelines; this is called a departure.
I have often been asked about the appropriateness or fairness of an upward or downward departure from Michigan sentencing guidelines. It is possible in Michigan to receive a sentence outside of the sentencing guideline range, as long as the sentence is tailored to the defendant individually, and the court demonstrates there were compelling and substantial reasons for its departure from the guidelines.
Beware the upward departure. It is within a sentencing court’s discretion to consider many factors in determining an appropriate sentence.
This was the case in a recent Michigan Court of Appeals decision that concerned an upward departure. In that case, the Court considered defendant’s criminal record, which showed a specific pattern of violent conduct toward women. Accordingly, the Court departed upward from the Guidelines on the basis that this pattern demonstrated a substantial and compelling reason for departure.
This case demonstrates that an upward departure can be based on a history of domestic assault against women. If a defendant has multiple arrests or convictions for domestic assault the court can use these occasions to establish a pattern of bad behavior and use these facts to depart up above a defendant’s originally scored sentencing guideline range.
If you feel you have been sentenced inappropriately outside of the guidelines you should contact an attorney to appeal the court’s decision.


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