Michigan Court Discusses Deviations from Sentencing Guidelines

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.

In other words, the key inquiry is not whether the sentence departs from the guidelines but whether it is reflective of the seriousness of the crime. When the defendant’s behavior was so egregious that the standard sentence fails to reflect the severity, it may warrant an upward departure from the sentencing guidelines. In the subject case, the appellate court noted that the trial court appropriately determined that the value of the lost property did not adequately reflect the severity of the underlying offense. Thus, the court affirmed the sentence.

Meet with a Trusted Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

While in some instances entering a guilty plea can result in a reduced sentence, that is not always the case, and penalties for theft crimes are often severe regardless of whether the offenders admit guilt. If you are accused of a theft crime, it is advisable to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a trusted Michigan criminal defense attorney who can advise you of your rights and help you to pursue the best result available under the circumstances.  You can contact Mr. Bernstein via the online form or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a conference.


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