In the Michigan Supreme Court case of People v. Arnold, the Court upheld an alternative sentencing scheme for defendants convicted as a sexual delinquents.
The Court held that a sexually delinquent person may be sentenced to either imprisonment between 1 day and life or by the current felony sentencing guidelines.
What Happened in the Case
The Defendant was convicted by a jury in the Monroe County Circuit Court of aggravated indecent exposure and indecent exposure by a sexually delinquent person, as well as a fourth-offense habitual offender. Read What is Indecent Exposure?
The Indecent Exposure Law
At issue in the case was the sentencing scheme for indecent exposure. The law reads as follows: Indecent exposure in Michigan is punishable by up to one year in jail. Aggravated indecent exposure is punishable by up to two years in prison. Aggravated indecent exposure by a sexually delinquent person is punishable by imprisonment for “an indeterminate term, the minimum of which is 1 day and the maximum of which is life.” MCL 750.335a.
At the sentencing hearing, the Defendant argued that he should be sentenced to a term of 1 day to life. The Judge ordered the Defendant sentenced to 25 to 70 years for indecent exposure by a sexually delinquent person and 2 to 15 years aggravated indecent exposure.
The Defendant argued that the law required the Judge to order a sentence of 1 day to life. Obviously, a sentence with parole eligibility starting at one day is better than 2 years. The Judge replied that the Court could not because it had to provide a specific maximum sentence that was not life.
In Michigan, felony sentencing is governed by the sentencing guidelines. The guidelines give a minimum and maximum sentence. The minimum sentence is calculated by adding up different variables such as a defendant’s prior criminal history and the specifics of the sentencing offense. The maximum sentence for an offense is governed by statute rather than those variables, though could be increased if the person is sentenced as a habitual felony offender.
The Issue on Appeal
The issue for the Court was whether the law requires a sexually delinquent person to receive a sentence of 1 day to life.
The Court’s Ruling
The Court ruled that the sentence of 1 day to life is an optional sentence for a Court. The Court could sentence a sexually delinquent person from 1 day to life or could sentence the person according by the sentencing guidelines. The guidelines generate more specific numbers, such as the 25 to 75 the Defendant in this case received.
The Court’s Reasoning
The Court looked to the history of the law for guidance. The idea behind the sentence of 1 day to life is to provide flexibility for incarceration and treatment of sexually delinquent persons. Historically, a sexually delinquent person was considered to have a mental illness that required special treatment. The law surrounding sexual delinquent defendants transformed several times over the last 80 years.
For the Future
The Court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals to focus on one more issue. The Court wanted to know if the trial court’s sentencing options were affected by the creation of the sentencing guidelines in light of the history of sentencing for sexual delinquent persons. Sentencing for sexual delinquent persons under the guidelines requires a “Class A” felony group listing, which is the most serious class under the guidelines.
Sam Bernstein is a Criminal Defense Attorney in Ann Arbor.
ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.
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