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BlogsPublications | March 30, 2017
2 minute read

When juvenile lifer (without parole) is resentenced, revised sentence has maximum term of 60 years

The maximum prison sentence for defendants resentenced to a term of years under MCL 769.25a is 60 years, said the Court of Appeals in People v Meadows, No. 334827. The statute allows resentencing for defendants who initially received life-without-parole sentences for crimes committed as minors. 

The Michigan Legislature enacted MCL 769.25a in response to Miller v Alabama, 132 S Ct 2455 (2012), which  held that mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on ‘cruel and unusual punishments.’ The statute contains the following language regarding the term of years applicable upon resentencing: “[i]f the prosecuting attorney does not file a motion under subdivision (b) [asking for life without parole], the court shall sentence the individual to a term of imprisonment for which the maximum term shall be 60 years and the minimum term shall be not less than 25 years or more than 40 years.”

The Court of Appeals considered how the statute should apply in the case of a defendant convicted of first-degree murder in 1970 at the age of 16. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. On resentencing under MCL 769.25a, the circuit court imposed a prison term of 25 to 45 years and then ordered defendant’s release after giving him credit for over 46 years served.

The prosecutor appealed the sentence, contending that the maximum sentence had to be set at 60 years under MCL 769.25a. Defendant argued that MCL 769.25a merely provides that the maximum term upon resentencing could be no more than 60 years. The Court of Appeals held that the circuit court’s prison sentence of 25 to 45 years was not permitted under the plain and unambiguous language of MCL 769.25a(4)(c). The plain language of the statute indicates that  “the maximum term shall be 60 years.” Such language did not allow for the defendant’s interpretation that the maximum term of imprisonment shall be “not more” than 60 years. Therefore, the Court of Appeals held that the maximum sentence prescribed upon resentencing under MCL 769.25a must be set at 60 years and remanded the case to allow the defendant to be resentenced.