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Michigan Supreme Court Rules that Michigan Sentencing Guidelines are Advisory, not Mandatory.

People v Lockridge

The court held that because “Michigan’s sentencing guidelines scheme allows judges to find by a preponderance of the evidence facts that are then used to compel an increase in the mandatory minimum punishment a defendant receives, it violates the Sixth Amendment” under Alleyne. Thus, it overruled the Court of Appeals’ decision inHerron. To remedy the constitutional flaw in the guidelines, it held that they are advisory only. “To make a threshold showing of plain error that could require resentencing, a defendant must demonstrate that his or her OV level was calculated using facts beyond those found by the jury or admitted by the defendant and that a corresponding reduction in the defendant’s OV score to account for the error would change the applicable guidelines minimum sentence range.” If a defendant makes this showing “and was not sentenced to an upward departure sentence, he or she is entitled to a remand for the trial court” to determine whether “plain error occurred, i.e., whether the court would have imposed the same sentence absent the unconstitutional constraint on its discretion.” If the trial court determines that it would not have imposed the same sentence, it must resentence the defendant. The court reversed the Court of Appeals’ judgment in part and affirmed defendant’s sentence. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 8 to 15 years, an upward departure from the minimum guidelines range of 43 to 86 months.

The court held that the rule from Apprendi, as extended by Alleyne, “applies to Michigan’s sentencing guidelines and renders them constitutionally deficient.” The deficiency “is the extent to which the guidelines require judicial fact-finding beyond facts admitted by the defendant or found by the jury to score” OVs that “mandatorily increase the floor of the guidelines minimum sentence range, i.e. the ‘mandatory minimum’ sentence underAlleyne.” The court severed “MCL 769.34(2) to the extent that it makes the sentencing guidelines range as scored on the basis of facts beyond those admitted by the defendant or found by the jury beyond a reasonable doubt mandatory.” It also struck down the requirement in MCL 769.34(3) that “a sentencing court that departs from the applicable guidelines range must articulate a substantial and compelling reason for that departure.” Consistently with Booker, it held that “a guidelines minimum sentence range calculated in violation of Apprendi and Alleyne is advisory only and that sentences that depart from that threshold are to be reviewed" for reasonableness. A “sentencing court must determine the applicable guidelines range and take it into account when imposing a sentence.” Defendant’s guidelines minimum range “was irrelevant to the upward departure sentence he ultimately received.” Thus, he could not show the prejudice needed to establish plain error under Carines.

The dissent concluded that “under the Sixth Amendment a criminal defendant is not entitled to a jury determination of facts necessary to establish his or her minimum parole eligibility date.” Under Michigan’s sentencing system, the judge’s “exercise of judgment in establishing a parole eligibility date does not infringe the authority of the jury and does not violate the Sixth Amendment” of the U.S. Constitution. Further, “Michigan’s indeterminate sentencing guidelines do not produce ‘mandatory minimum’ criminal sentences, and because Alleyne only applies to facts that increase ‘mandatory minimum’ sentences, Alleyne is inapplicable” to Michigan’s guidelines. Thus, the dissent did not believe the sentencing system violates the Constitution, and would affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

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