U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

MANDATORY SENTENCING AND THE ABOLITION OF PLEA BARGAINING - THE MICHIGAN FELONY FIREARM STATUTE

NCJ Number
59921
Date Published
January 1979
Length
38 pages
Author(s)
M HEUMANN, C LOFTIN
Agencies
NIJ-Sponsored
Annotation
THE SIMULTANEOUS ATTEMPT TO ABOLISH PLEA BARGAINING AND TO INTRODUCE MANDATORY SENTENCING IN WAYNE COUNTY (DETROIT), MICH., IS EXAMINED IN THIS STUDY.
Abstract
EXPERIENCE HAS SHOWN THAT WHEN AN ATTEMPT IS MADE TO PROHIBIT PLEA BARGAINING, THE RESULTANT DECREASE IN PROSECUTORIAL DISCRETION IS COMPENSATED FOR BY AN INCREASE IN JUDICIAL DISCRETION AND INVOLVEMENT IN SENTENCE NEGOTIATIONS. CONVERSELY, WHEN MANDATORY SENTENCES ARE IMPOSED (REDUCING JUDICIAL DISCRETION), EXPERIENCE SHOWS THAT PROSECUTORS EXERCISE MORE DISCRETION IN DETERMINING CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST DEFENDANTS. THEREFORE, IT IS IMPORTANT TO DETERMINE HOW THE SYSTEM WOULD RESPOND IF BOTH ACTIONS WERE INTRODUCED AT ONCE. THE MICHIGAN FELONY FIREARM STATUTE, WHICH WENT INTO EFFECT IN 1977, WAS FOLLOWED BY THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S ANNOUNCEMENT THAT HIS OFFICE WOULD NOT ENTER INTO PLEA BARGAINING IN CASES COVERED BY THIS ACT. THIS STUDY OBTAINED DATA FROM 23 INTERVIEWS WITH COURT PERSONNEL AND ALSO COLLECTED CRIME, DEFENDANT, AND DISPOSITION DATA FOR SEVEN CATEGORIES OF OFFENSES FOR THE 6-MONTH PERIOD BEFORE AND AFTER THE LAW WENT INTO EFFECT. THOUGH SOME EVIDENCE SUGGESTS THAT THE LAW AND PROHIBITION ON PLEA BARGAINING MAY HAVE SELECTIVELY INCREASED SENTENCING SEVERITY FOR CERTAIN CLASSES OF OFFENDERS, DISPOSITION PATTERNS DID NOT APPEAR TO HAVE BEEN DRAMATICALLY ALTERED. IN MANY SERIOUS CASES, SENTENCES FOR THE PRIMARY FELONY WERE ADJUDICATED DOWNWARD TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE ADDITIONAL 2-YEAR PENALTY. IN 'EQUITY' CASES, IN WHICH THE DEFENDANTS HAD NOT PREVIOUSLY RECEIVED PRISON TIME; OTHER MECHANISMS, SUCH AS ABBREVIATED BENCH TRIALS, WERE OFTEN EMPLOYED TO CIRCUMVENT THE MANDATORY SENTENCING PROVISION. THESE FINDINGS SUGGEST THE DIFFICULTY OF ACHIEVING RADICAL CHANGE WITHIN THE SYSTEM, SINCE IT CAN ADJUST TO, AND THUS FRUSTRATE, ANY RADICAL REFORM. STATISTICAL TABLES, FOOTNOTES, AND REFERENCES ARE PROVIDED. (KCP)
Date Created: December 30, 1979