On December 28, 2017, the Michigan Legislature and Governor Snyder sent 2017 PA 265 to the Secretary of State for entry into the Michigan Compiled Laws. The Public Act served to amend a number of provisions of the State’s Criminal Laws. The most significant change, however, was an amendment to M.C.L. §333.7413(1) and (2). Those sections imposed additional penalties upon persons convicted of a second narcotics-related offense. While the need for a sentencing enhancement for second or subsequent offenders at all is open for debate, the law, prior to the passage of the bill, required the imposition of mandatory life sentence, without the possibility of parole, for a second offense of possession with intent to deliver more than 50 grams of cocaine, or, about 2/5 the weight of a bar of Dove Soap.

The Old Scheme: Under the current law, which will not longer be in effect after March 28, 2018, if a person has ever been convicted of a narcotics related offense involving 50 grams or more of a controlled substance, a second conviction, under the old version of the statute, imposed a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. The only other crime in Michigan that has such a sentence is First Degree Murder. Simply put, the law, before this amendment, treated two convictions for possessing with the intent to sell or deliver, actually delivering, or manufacturing 50 grams of cocaine or an equivalent, in the same manner as a premeditated murder, or killing a police officer in the line of duty. The old scheme was instituted in the 1980s, specifically, the statute M.C.L. §333.7413 was last amended in 1988, when the United States Governments, and the States, were in the middle of the “War on Drugs” and were instituting severe penalties for all narcotics related offenses. Since that time, the majority of States, and the Federal Government, have reduced penalties for certain, low-level drug offenses, even for repeat offenders. Michigan’s old repeat drug offender sentencing provisions had not caught up with the new scheme.

The New Scheme: Under the new version of the bill, the repeat narcotics offender sentencing provisions have been modified and reduced. Most importantly, the mandatory lifer provisions regarding narcotics offenses have been eliminated. In other words, a person convicted of a second or subsequent drug offense can no longer be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Rather, the second or subsequent offense can subject the person to a maximum sentence of up to two times that otherwise imposed by the statute. Given the lengthy sentences that are imposed for possession with intent to deliver cocaine, delivery of cocaine, and manufacturing of cocaine, those double-time sentences can still be substantial, but there is no mandatory life imposition, and there is the possibility of a probationary sentence in lieu of prison, and eligibility for parole. These are substantial and important changes for anyone who is facing charges for narcotics-related offenses, and an important development that any criminal defense attorney handling these case should know about. The new changes to the law will become effective on March 28, 2018. The law does not indicate whether it will be applicable retroactively or not, though generally, such laws are not considered to apply to cases that were closed prior to enactment.

The fact of the matter is, these are new and important changes to the controlled substances laws in Michigan, and have the potential to impact a substantial number of defendants state wide. If you are looking to retain a criminal defense attorney for a narcotics or drug related offense, make sure you hire one who knows the law and has the experience to get you the best outcome possible. If you are interested in reading the summary from the legislature regarding the changes in the law, and the reasons for it, you can find them here.