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People v. Stevens: Do Drug Paraphernalia Convictions Count as Misdemeanors for Felony Sentencing?

January 18, 2018 Criminal Law and Procedure

In the Court of Appeals case of People v. Stevens, the Court ruled that misdemeanor drug paraphernalia convictions count as misdemeanors to be scored under prior record variable 5 for felony sentencing.

What Happened in the Case

The defendant was convicted at trial of assault with intent to commit great bodily harm. The defendant had run a self-defense claim to the assault charge but the jury convicted nonetheless. At sentencing, the trial court assessed 20 points for prior record variable 5, partially based on 4 past misdemeanor drug paraphernalia offenses. The defendant argued he should only be assessed 1o points, claiming that past convictions for drug paraphernalia shouldn’t count against him.

Sentencing Law

In felony sentencing, the Court sentences a person based on a “score” that is calculated from a person’s past record and factors from the offense the person is in trouble for. The defendant wants that score to be as low as possible.

Specifically, the Court looks at past misdemeanor convictions and counts those against the defendant. PRV 5 is past misdemeanor convictions. Not all misdemeanor convictions count, however. Only those misdemeanor offenses for offenses against persons or property, controlled substance offenses, and weapons offenses. The defendant was arguing that drug paraphernalia convictions were a type of misdemeanor that should not be counted in the scoring. The issue was whether a drug paraphernalia charge was a controlled substance charge.

What’s at stake here was a possible reduction in prison sentence. If the defendant was successful in eliminating the past drug paraphernalia convictions from being counted against him, then his prison sentence would have been reduced.

Do Drug Paraphernalia Convictions Count s Misdemeanors for Sentencing?

The Court ruled that drug paraphernalia is a misdemeanor involving controlled substances. The Court looked to the definition of the term drug paraphernalia. Specifically, drug paraphernalia refers to equipment related to the use, preparation, and packaging of controlled substances. Therefore, the Court said, a drug paraphernalia charge is sufficiently related to controlled substances so that it should be counted as a misdemeanor at sentencing.

Dealing With Sentencing Law

Many attorneys advertise as trial attorneys, which is important. The reality is that sentencing law is equally or probably even more important. This is because the majority of cases end through plea negotiations. Knowledge of sentencing law is incredibly important because sometimes a small difference in the “score” for the defendant can make a big real-life impact.

Contact ArborYpsi Law

Call Sam Bernstein at 734-883-9584 or e-mail at

Sam Bernstein is a Criminal Attorney in Ann Arbor.

ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.

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This case is captioned: People v. Stevens, 858 NW 2d 98 – Mich: Court of Appeals 2014