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A Better Partnership
January 09, 2013

COA Opinion: Prisoner serving a life sentence is not entitled to parole for the purpose of deportation

A Michigan statute (MCL 791.234b) provides that a state prisoner shall be paroled and released to the federal government for purposes of deportation if the individual was (1) not serving that sentence for particular enumerated crimes; (2) was subject to a final order of deportation; and (3) had "served at least 1/2 of the minimum sentence imposed by the court." In Chico-Polo v Dep't of Corrections, the Court of Appeals addressed the applicability of statute to a prisoner that met the first two conditions of the statute, but was serving a life sentence. The prisoner argued that because he had served ten years, and would be eligible for parole after 20 years, he had served half of the minimum sentence. The Court disagreed. It found that the statute requires that the prisoner serve half the minimum sentence "imposed by the court" and that, here, the criminal trial court had not imposed a minimum sentence, but instead imposed a life sentence. Judge Boonstra agreed with the result of the per curiam opinion of Judges Hoekstra and Borrello, but found, in a concurring opinion, that the statute was vague as applied to this situation and that, as such, the prisoner did not meet the high bar required in his mandamus action seeking release under the statute because he could not demonstrate the required "clear legal right" to the action sought.

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