Probation or Jail time in Michigan
By Daniel T. Geherin
If you’ve been convicted of a crime that comes with jail time in Michigan, the judge has several options. They can order that you serve the complete jail sentence, that you serve a jail sentence in combination with probation, that your entire sentence be addressed by probation, or – less frequently – pay a fine and face no jail time or probation at all. Obtaining favorable sentencing can make a significant difference in your future, and for that, the legal representation of an experienced criminal defense attorney in Michigan can help immensely.
Probation in Michigan
Probation is an alternative to incarceration in jail or prison – for prison sentences of less than a year – there are exacting probation eligibility requirements involved. When the court orders probation, they maintain a level of supervision over the defendant for a predetermined amount of time that translates to a kind of compromise between incarceration and freedom. When the underlying crime is a misdemeanor, sentencing guidelines set the maximum probation period at two years. When the underlying crime is a felony, recent changes to probation and sentencing laws in Michigan set the maximum probation period to three years – with the possibility of extensions that increase the duration to five years.
There are several basic forms of probation in Michigan.
Nonreporting or Unsupervised Probation
Sometimes, courts allow probationers to be completely unsupervised throughout their probation period. Before they can be released from probation, the probation officer must verify that all the conditions of their probation were met, including paying all required fines and performing any community service assigned.
Supervised probation requires regular scheduled face-to-face meetings between the probationer and the probation officer. At these meetings, the probationer has the opportunity to demonstrate that they’re compliant with the parole terms handed down by the court and to address any challenges to successful probation they may face.
If the probationer’s order has been amended, such as in response to a violation, an increased level of supervision can be ordered. For example, more frequent drug or alcohol tests may be required.
Those probationers who are considered at higher risk of reoffending can be placed on intensive probation, which can require several contacts with the probation officer each week. This can include the probation officer meeting with the probationer’s contacts in the community, such as their employer, family members, community service supervisor, school administrators, and beyond.
Specialized supervision refers to probation that’s under the guidance of a specialized officer, such as for DWI probation.
There are several important probation eligibility requirements in Michigan. These include that the defendant is considered unlikely to engage in further criminal conduct and that the crime they were convicted of doesn’t fall into one of these categories:
● Criminal sexual conduct of the first-degree
● Armed robbery
● A major controlled substance offense
Finally, the probation can’t infringe on the public good.
In some situations, early discharge from probation is a possibility. The basic requirements for eligibility include the following:
● At least half of the probationary term was successfully completed.
● All the conditions of probation were upheld.
● There were no probation violations in the three months prior to eligibility.
Jail Time in Michigan
In the Michigan criminal justice system, defendants who face misdemeanor charges and those who face felony charges involving sentences of less than a year are incarcerated in jail – as opposed to prison. Prisons throughout the state are run by the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Sentencing guidelines for jail time in Michigan include factors that the judge should consider when making the jail time determination. For felony cases, the process involves assigning a score that factors in how serious the current offense is as well as any prior criminal history.
Charges that are commonly associated with jail time in Michigan include:
● Assault and battery
● Domestic violence
● Drug possession
The criminal justice system in Michigan employs what is known as an indeterminate sentencing system. This means the judge sets both a maximum and a minimum sentence, and the minimum sentence specifies the date the defendant first becomes eligible for parole, also called the earliest release date. The parole board ultimately determines parole eligibility at that time.
Setting Maximum and Minimum Sentences
Maximum sentences are typically set by statute, which means the judge has no discretion on the matter. For minimum sentences, the judge turns to the state’s sentencing guidelines in relation to the unique case at hand – with the goal of achieving sentencing uniformity throughout the state. It’s important to note that judges have considerable discretion in relation to minimum sentencing – and while uniformity is the goal, it has yet to be achieved.
Aggravating and Mitigating Sentencing Factors
There are certain aggravating factors that can lengthen the sentence imposed and certain mitigating circumstances that can lighten a sentence. Common aggravating factors include:
● Prior convictions
● The victim’s level of vulnerability
● The defendant’s leadership role in relation to the crime
● A crime that is based on bias or animus – known as a hate crime
Common mitigating circumstances, on the other hand, include:
● The absence of a prior record
● A minor role in the offense
● A mitigating circumstance in one’s past, such as abuse
● The victim’s culpability
● Genuine remorse
Specialized Supervision Programs
There are specific supervision programs in Michigan that are designed to address specific concerns, such as drug addiction, alcoholism, family dependency, and mental health concerns. The idea is to reduce repeat offenses in nonviolent offenders and to improve the likelihood of successful rehabilitation via supervised treatment, mandatory testing, and the implementation of appropriate sanctions.
How Legal Representation Can Help
Having a seasoned criminal defense attorney in Mchigan on your side throughout your case can make a significant difference in the outcome. To begin, your attorney will strive to have your case dropped altogether. If this isn’t a possibility, they’ll engage in skillful negotiations with the prosecution – in pursuit of an advantageous resolution that may include having the charge against you lessened, having the sentence you face decreased, or obtaining a sentence of probation that keeps you out of jail.
Consult a Trusted Criminal Defense Attorney in Michigan about Your Case
If you’re facing a criminal charge, it’s critical that you understand the involved sentencing guidelines, and the truth is that having practiced legal representation in your corner can have a profound effect on the outcome of your case – and on your future. At Geherin Law Group, our founding and principal criminal defense attorney in Michigan – Daniel T. Geherin – is one of very few attorneys in the state who have earned board certification in criminal law through The National Board of Trial Advocacy, and his experience and legal skill inform every case we handle. Your case's resolution will play a pivotal role in your future, and our compassionate legal team is well-positioned to help. Your case is important, so please don’t wait to reach out and submit a contact form or call us at 734-263-2780 for more information about what we can do for you today.