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Prosecutor Challenges One-Year Jail Sentence for Drunk Driving Causing Death Case

Sep 29th, 2016 DUI Penalties DUI Defense

In Michigan, a charge of drunk driving causing death is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.  This possible sentence is set forth in Michigan Complied Laws 257.625(4)(a).  In determining exactly what sentence to impose for an individual case a judge will be looking at many factors, including the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines.

A recent case dealing with this issue is People v. Taylor.  In this particular case the defendant Taylor was found guilty of drunk driving causing death. The facts were that Taylor admitted drinking, then while driving a car killed a person on a bicycle.  He failed field sobriety tests and was over the legal limit.

The sentencing guideline range was 29 – 57 months.  Taylor’s defense attorney filed a sentencing memorandum where he requested a downward departure from these guidelines.  He argued that there were substantial and compelling reasons to do so, including his lack of criminal history, education, employment history, remorse and many other factors.  The prosecutor, of course, argued that none of this mattered.

The court agreed with the defendant and imposed the one-year sentence with work release possible after 6 months.  This was to be followed by five years of probation.  Furthermore, the court stated that a one-year sentence would not be easy for someone like the defendant, with his professional work experience, education, and background.  Also, that being on probation for five years was in some ways more difficult than going to prison for a much shorter period and being done with it.

There is a case in Michigan that addresses sentences in felony cases like drunk driving causing death.  The name of the case that struck down the requirement that a sentencing court articulate a substantial and compelling reason for a sentence that falls outside the guideline range is People v Lockridge.  Courts do have to provide a reasonable sentence, however, and must indicate what it is so that an appellate court can determine if it is reasonable.

On this basis, the court of appeals sent the case back to the sentencing judge so that the trial court could “justify the extent of any departure sentence and explain why the sentence imposed is proportionate to the seriousness of the offense, taking into account defendant’s background and any mitigating factors.”