Our office had a recent question regarding sentencing guidelines in State Court.  Specifically: What does the Prosecution have to show to add points to your score?
 
I believe this question was related to the Michigan sentencing guidelines. For those who don’t know, if you are convicted of a felony in Michigan, the Judge will ultimately use sentencing guidelines to help determine the appropriate sentence. The guidelines can be complex and if you are in trouble a complete explanation should be given to you by your attorney. However, I will try to give a generalized explanation with an example from a recent case.
 
The crime you are convicted of will determine a grid or chart that will be used to determine a sentencing range given in months. There will be an “X” axis and a “Y” axis on this chart. The “X” axis will be your prior record. The “Y” axis will be the offense variables, or the factors involved in your particular case. Once the points are determined for both axis the judge will determine where the defendant falls within the grid. The judge will then have a range in months to help determine the minimum sentence.
 
The addition or subtraction of points on either axis can make a big difference in a client’s case. If there is a dispute the prosecution bears the burden of proving the specific variable should apply by a preponderance of the evidence.
 
By way of example using a recent case where a prior record variable was contested in the case of People of the State of Michigan v. Dafonte Dukes. In Dukes the defendant appealed his convictions of unarmed robbery, MCL 750.530, and assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, MCL 750.84.
 
In Duke the defendant contested 10 points added to PRV 6. PRV 6 states 10 points should be scored if “the offender is on parole, probation, or delayed sentence status or on bond awaiting adjudication or sentencing for a felony.” The Court of Appeals ruled that 10 points should be scored because the prosecutor showed by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant was on probation at the time of the sentencing offense.
 
I hope this gives some guidance, however, as noted above the Michigan State sentencing guidelines can be complex and you should consult your lawyer if you are in trouble.
 
Michael D. Hills

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