In Michigan, there are sentencing guidelines that direct the courts as to the appropriate penalties for criminal convictions. While generally, the courts sentence offenders within the statutory parameters, they have the discretion to deviate from them in some instances. Their liberties are not boundless, though, and if they depart from the guidelines, their decisions must be reasonable. Recently, a Michigan court discussed the reasonableness standard for evaluating sentences that depart from the applicable guidelines range in a case in which the defendant appealed her sentence for using false pretenses to obtain over $3 million in fees. If you are charged with a theft crime, it is smart to speak with a seasoned Michigan criminal defense attorney to discuss your options for seeking a favorable outcome.
The History of the Case
It is reported that the defendant was in charge of handling billing for her husband’s trucking company. In 2011, she began submitting false invoices to a factoring company for work that was never performed. The factoring company paid in excess of $3.3 million for fake invoices from 2011 to 2018. After the factoring company uncovered the scheme, the police arrested the defendant and charged her with multiple counts of using false pretenses to obtain money. She pleaded guilty and agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $3.3 million. The court sentenced her to 9 to 20 years imprisonment, which was an upward departure from the top end of the minimum sentence. The defendant appealed, arguing the trial court abused its discretion in upwardly departing from the guidelines range.
Evaluating the Reasonableness of a Sentence
Michigan appellate courts review sentences that deviate from the applicable guidelines range under a reasonableness standard. The Michigan Supreme Court has stated that the proper question when assessing a sentence for reasonableness is whether the trial court violated the principle of proportionality in imposing the sentence and therefore committed an abuse of discretion. The principle of proportionality dictates that a sentence imposed by a court must be proportionate to the severity of the circumstances surrounding the crime and the offender. Continue Reading ›