Defendant to be Resentenced after District Court Erred by Imposing Jail in Lieu of Prison

A Dakota County District Court’s Sentencing Order was reversed by the Minnesota Court of Appeals because the District Court did not impose prison for the Defendant in a controlled-substance case. State of Minnesota vs. Brett Allyn Michling was reversed and remanded for resentencing because the District Court erred by not ordering Michling be committed to prison for a minimum of 2 years as set by Minnesota law. Instead, the District Court granted a departure from the prison sentence and ordered Michling to serve 1 year in a local jail among other conditions which included 15 years of probation.

Brett Michling plead guilty to a charge of 3rd degree controlled-substance in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.023, subd. 2(6) (2010). Michling had a previous felony-level controlled-substance conviction within 10-years. His sentence on the previous conviction was discharged meaning he did not serve prison time. Due to the previous conviction, the presumptive guidelines sentence under Minnesota law on the 3rd degree controlled-substance violation is 45-months in prison. Based on Michling’s record, the minimum sentence for a subsequent controlled-substance violation is 2 years in prison as specified by Minn. Stat. § 152.023, subd. (3)b. Michling requested and was granted a downward dispositional departure by the District Court.

The State appealed the Sentencing Order on the basis that the District Court’s sentencing discretion was constrained by state law. The Court of Appeals agreed, finding that in this particular case the law governing the offense contained a mandatory minimum sentence.

While the Courts’ role is to interpret the law, and the statute on the offense specifies prison, this case is concerning for several reasons. The District Court made specific findings based on the knowledge and facts present as to why the state guidelines should not be imposed. In addition, in a situation involving a controlled substance, treatment and rehabilitation are important aspects in assisting the productive return of the Defendant to society. The Court of Appeals considered this argument, but determined that it is the role of the legislature to determine the appropriate punishment for crimes, and essentially, their hands are tied. Finally, the sentence originally imposed by the District Court provided for more accountability on the part of Michling. Michling would still have to do a year of jail time, and in addition, he was to be on probation for 15 years. The resentencing will very likely afford less accountability as Michling will be supervised for a shorter period of time.

If you are facing drug charges, the consequences can be severe and may result in prison time and a loss of liberties. Make sure someone is looking out for your rights by speaking with a Minneapolis Criminal Defense Attorney right away.