In the Court of Appeals case of People v. James, the Court decides whether a marijuana conviction under 7411 counts as a misdemeanor for the purposes of felony sentencing.
By law, a drug conviction under 7411 does not count as a misdemeanor to be scored for felony sentencing. This is because the conviction is not truly an adjudication of guilt, as the case is dismissed upon successful completion of probation. Read more about 7411 for Drug Crimes.
What Happened in the Case
Derrick James was convicted at a jury trial of assault with intent to commit great bodily harm less than murder (MCL 750.84). James was sentenced as a habitual offender (second) to 47 months to 15 years in prison.
On appeal, James argued that the trial court erred when it counted his prior marijuana conviction under 7411 against him when it calculated his sentence.
When a person is sentenced on a felony, their sentence is determined by calculating a “score” based on the person’s prior record and on the specific of the sentencing offense. The lower the score then the lower the potential sentence. When looking at a prior record, the court will determine how many juvenile adjudications, misdemeanors, and prior felonies a person had.
When it comes to counting misdemeanors, not all misdemeanors count. For example, traffic misdemeanors, other than operating while intoxicated offenses, do not count. But in this case, the question was not whether a marijuana possession conviction is a scorable misdemeanor, but whether this was a conviction at all.
At Issue in This Case
Specifically in this case, the issue was whether a possession of marijuana conviction under 7411 counts as a conviction. If it counts as a conviction, then the misdemeanor is scored for felony sentencing. If the conviction does not count, then the misdemeanor is not scored, and the potential sentence would be lowered for James.
7411 is a deferred sentencing statute available to first-time offenders for drug use and possession charges. 7411 could be used for misdemeanor marijuana possession or even felony heroin or cocaine possession. A person who pleads guilty under 7411 is put on probation for a period of time, and if successful, the misdemeanor is dismissed without an adjudication of guilt.
Defendant James argued in this case that because his marijuana conviction under 7411 was discharged and dismissed at the end of probation he did not have a conviction that could be scored in the felony sentencing calculation.
The Court agreed with the argument. As the Court explained, a conviction is an adjudication of guilt. The MCL 333.7411 statute says the charge is dismissed upon successful completion of probation without an adjudication of guilt – therefore a 7411 dismissal is not a conviction.
It is important for your criminal defense counsel to understand the sentencing laws. Courts can and do make mistakes when it comes to felony sentencing. These mistakes can be costly. A lawyer trained in felony sentencing law can be crucial to avoid unnecessary jail or prison time.
I once had a case where the client was being sentenced on home invasion and resisting arrest charges. The probation agent had score his guidelines in the wrong grid – this mistake would have sent the client to prison when he should have been walking out the door at sentencing! I adjourned the case at sentencing so the mistake could be fixed. These mistakes do happen and not catching them could cost dearly.
Call ArborYpsi Law
Sam Bernstein is a Criminal Defense and DUI Lawyer in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.
ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.
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This case is cited as People v. James, 705 NW 2d 724 – Mich: Court of Appeals 2005