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Cobbs Evaluations in Misdemeanor and Felony Sentencing in Michigan

Jun 11th, 2019 OWI Cobbs Evaluations in Misdemeanor and Felony Sentencing in Michigan

If you are facing a possible conviction on a misdemeanor or felony in Michigan, then you are undoubtedly wondering what the likely sentence will be for a misdemeanor or felony. Michigan judges operate on the theory of “individualized sentencing” meaning that each offender is sentenced according to their own circumstances. Accordingly, the judge sentencing you should consider all relevant and necessary information to allow him or her to fashion an appropriate and proper individualized sentence. Such a sentence should be tailored to the particular circumstances of the case and the offender and should balance both society’s needs for protection and society’s interest in maximizing the offender’s rehabilitative potential.[i] The sentencing judge should consider information that has a logical bearing on the following four sentencing goals:

  1. the reformation of the offender,
  2. protection of society,
  3. the disciplining of the wrongdoer, and
  4. the deterrence of others from committing like offenses.[ii]

To help you avoid pleading guilty without any knowledge or expectation of your actual sentence, your lawyer may ask the judge for a “Cobbs[iii] agreement.” If your judge agrees to give one, the judge will advise you before the plea is entered what the judge believes to be an appropriate sentence or sentence range will be at sentencing. In other words, the judge may tell you that the sentence will be “six months in jail” or will fall within “the lower half of the sentencing guidelines.” This preview of the judge’s sentence is supposed to be based on the specific facts of your case and your criminal history, or lack thereof. Prosecutors are not supposed to be party to the terms of this possible sentence.

If you agree to plead guilty based on this sentencing preview and the judge determines later that a different sentence is in fact appropriate, then you may withdraw your plea.[iv]  There are some situations where this is not true, however. One example of when the judge need not follow the previewed sentence is where you violate a precondition the plea and Cobbs evaluation for a misdemeanor or felony. In such circumstances, you are not entitled to the benefit of the agreement. If this happens, you will not be allowed to withdraw your plea even if the sentence is worse the promised. [v]

Not all judges will agree to a Cobbs evaluation so you should discuss with your lawyer whether a Cobbs agreement is available in your case.  If it is available, then a Cobbs sentencing agreement can be a great way to learn what to expect before you plead guilty. This is often very important for planning purposes so that you can make the proper arrangements and tie up all your affairs before you are sentenced. For more information, contact our team today.

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[i] People v. McFarlin, 389 Mich. 557 (1973).

[ii] People v. Snow, 386 Mich. 586 (1972); People v. Adams, 430 Mich. 679 (1988).

[iii] People v. Cobbs, 443 Mich. 276 (1993

[iv] MCR 6.310(B)(2)(b).

[v] People v. White (Rickey), ___ Mich. App. ___, ___ (2014) (holding that where the defendant failed to make a restitution payment that “was a specific precondition of [his] Cobbs evaluation[,]” he was not entitled to withdraw his plea on the ground that the sentence imposed exceeded the preliminary evaluation) (citation omitted).