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New Michigan Law Removes Life without Parole Drug Sentences

Jun 27, 2018, by Maurice Davis in Drug Crimes, Legal Blog
A Gavel in a Courtroom

Michigan has put an end to life without parole sentences for drug offenders. Like many states, Michigan enacted harsh drug trafficking laws in the 70s. One of those laws called the “650-lifer” law, mandated life in prison without parole for anyone convicted of manufacturing or delivering an excess of 650 grams of cocaine or heroin. The law was supposed to give prosecutors the tools to dismantle drug trafficking organizations. However, the Michigan House Fiscal Agency analyzed the law and discovered that it only made Michigan prisons full of low-level drug pushers.

If you or someone you love has been charged with a drug crime, you need the assistance of a drug defense attorney. At Davis Law Group, we have helped many clients lessen or exonerate their drug charges. To speak with a skilled Detroit drug lawyer regarding your case, call us today at (313) 818-3238 and schedule a free case evaluation.

Michigan Has Been Reducing Drug Crime Sentences Since the Nineties

In 1998, Michigan overhauled its drug sentencing laws and eliminated most of its mandatory life sentences, replacing them with 10 to 20-year minimums. Michigan further reduced its drug trafficking penalties with a package of bills introduced in 2002. These reforms eliminated the mandatory minimums for many drug offenses that had been introduced in 1998. For example, the penalty for possessing 50 to 224 grams of cocaine, which had been set to a minimum of 10 to 20 years in 1998, passed to a possible prison term of any length up to 20 years. Repeat drug offenders, however, were still subject to the possibility of life in prison without parole.

These tweaks to the mandatory minimums had a significant effect on the Michigan criminal justice system because, at the time, judges were not allowed to deviate significantly from the mandatory minimums mandated in the sentencing guidelines. More discretion was granted to judges in 2015, however, when the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that sentencing guidelines were merely advisory in purpose. For three years now, judges have been free to set sentences that do not strictly follow the guidelines.

Beginning March 2018, Parole Is Available for Some Life Sentences

The Michigan House and Senate unanimously passed the following three bills in the final month of 2017, and they went into effect on March 28, 2018:

  • Senate Bill 73 – Deletes a provision from the Public Health Code requiring life imprisonment and prohibiting parole for repeated controlled substance violations.
  • Senate Bill 72 – Amends the Corrections Code to allow prisoners serving life sentences for the offenses addressed in Senate Bill 73 to be eligible for parole after serving five years of each of their sentences.
  • Senate Bill 220 – Amends the Code of Criminal Procedure to reflect the above changes.

Call a Michigan Drug Defense Lawyer For Help With Your Drug Charge

Today, Michigan judges determine sentences for drug offenders based on the sentencing guidelines and the facts and circumstances specific to each case. This means that the advocacy of an experienced Detroit drug attorney can make a big difference. At Davis Law Group, our primary goal is to achieve case dismissals or acquittals. But, if your case proceeds to sentencing, we are often able to lessen a conviction by highlighting mitigating factors that apply to your case. If you or a family member is facing Michigan drug charges, contact us today at (313) 818-3238 for your free, initial consultation.