In an Ongoing Criminal Justice Reform Effort, Our Legislators Have Created a Presumption That Non-Serious Misdemeanors Should Not Result in Jail Time or Probation
As part of a bipartisan bill package that passed through the Michigan Senate in late 2020, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has approved and signed legislation that will reshape and clarify sentencing standards for minor misdemeanor offenses. Many criminal statutes currently give judges discretion in sentencing, allowing non-serious misdemeanors to result in a fine, imprisonment, or both. Unfortunately, this means many Michigan offenders have served, or are still serving, jail time for minor offenses like drug possession.
The new law, SB 1048, will go into effect on March 24, 2021. It provides a rebuttable presumption that the court shall sentence an individual convicted of a non-serious misdemeanor with a fine, community service, or another non-jail or non-probation sentence. A judge may only depart from this presumption if there exists reasonable grounds for such a departure and such grounds are stated on the record.
Non-Serious vs. Serious Misdemeanors in Michigan
So, what counts as a serious misdemeanor as opposed to a non-serious misdemeanor? A serious misdemeanor is defined under the William Van Regenmorter Crime Victim’s Right Act, MCL 780.811, and includes the following:
- Assault and battery, including domestic violence under MCL 750.81
- Assault; infliction of serious or aggravated injury, including aggravated domestic violence under MCL 750.81a
- Breaking and entering, or entering without breaking under MCL 750.115
- Child abuse in the fourth degree under MCL 750.136b
- Contributing to the neglect or delinquency of a minor under MCL 750.145
- Using the internet or a computer to make a prohibited communication under MCL 750.145d
- Intentionally aiming a firearm without malice under MCL 750.233
- Discharge of a firearm intentionally aimed at a person under MCL 750.234
- Discharge of an intentionally aimed firearm resulting in injury under MCL 750.235
- Indecent exposure under MCL 750.335a
- Stalking under MCL 750.411h
- Injuring a worker in a work zone under MCL 257.601b
- Leaving the scene of a personal injury accident under MCL 257.617a
- Operating a vehicle while under the influence of or impaired by intoxicating liquor or a controlled substance, or with an unlawful blood alcohol content, if the violation involves an accident resulting in damage to another individual's property or physical injury or death to another individual under MCL 257.625
- Selling or furnishing alcoholic liquor to an individual less than 21 years of age, if the violation results in physical injury or death to any individual under MCL 436.1701
- Operating a vessel while under the influence of or impaired by intoxicating liquor or a controlled substance, or with an unlawful blood alcohol content, if the violation involves an accident resulting in damage to another individual's property or physical injury or death to any individual under MCL 324.80176
- A violation of a local ordinance substantially corresponding to the violations listed above.
- A violation charged as a crime or serious misdemeanor but subsequently reduced to or pleaded to as a misdemeanor.
We Support Michigan’s Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Efforts
The bill passed through the Senate with a staggering 36-1 vote and is part of a package of criminal justice reform bills presented to and signed by Governor Whitmer in late 2020 and early 2021. Further successes in Michigan’s current stride towards criminal justice reform include the new Clean Slate Legislation, which allows for the automatic expungement of certain charges for those who have kept a clean record since.
Contact our criminal defense attorneys at (888) 211-5798 for a free, confidential consultation if you need help or counsel.