Mandatory guidelines a thing of the past for sentencing - WNEM TV 5

Mandatory guidelines a thing of the past for sentencing

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Next time the gavel drops in a Michigan court room, the judge isn't forced to throw the book.

"The voters did not elect a book, the voters elected a judge. The voters expect a judge to be fair, and firm, and reasonable," said Judge Geoffrey Neithercut.

Judge Neithercut, Genesee Co. Circuit Court, believes the decision to eliminate mandatory sentencing, is the right one.

"We need to be able to make a lighter sentence on an occasion, and a more harsh sentence on occasion, and sometimes the guidelines won't let us," Neithercut said.

And today, the state's Supreme Court ruled mandatory guidelines are unconstitutional. Before this ruling, judges across the state handed down sentences using a series of variables to determine how much time the convicted will serve.

Now, the mandatory guidelines are simply advisory guidelines.

"I think, what the judges look forward to, though, is having the discretion of making a decision," Neithercut said.

Attorney Frank Manley says this decision is a long time coming.

"I don't like guidelines, I've never liked guidelines, I've never felt that one size fits all," Manley said.

He says too many times, judges are under constraints to hand down sentences that simply don't fit.

"Not everybody fits into the same box, so I think it's important that these judges have that ability to design a sentence for each individual," Manley said.

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