Sentencing guidelines were created in Michigan to assist courts in assessing the appropriate sentence for felony cases and to promote statewide consistency in sentencing. The Michigan Sentencing Guidelines were originally Judicial Guidelines from 1984 to 1998. In 1999, the guidelines were changed to reflect Legislative Guidelines to cover all felony type charges/convictions and to give the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines more enforceability. The rationale for the institution of sentencing guidelines was primarily to promote statewide consistency in sentencing as stated by in the Crooks case. In other words, a person in the northern part of the state should not be receiving an extremely harsher and different sentence from a person then a similarly situated person in the southern part of the State just because of where he/she is sentenced.
Has the time now come to institute sentencing guidelines in misdemeanor cases? For a long time, the answer would have been a resounding, no. However, in recent years there have been a number of judges that have routinely given lengthy jail sentences and terms of probation for first time drunk driving offenders. While each case is different, it does not take a statistician to become aware of dangerous sentencing patterns. A person can manage a 1-5 day jail sentence without losing their employment, income, or custody of their children, but increase that sentence to 20 days or 60 days and the results are very different. Take similarly situated offenders before a different judge and the same offenders may get shorter non-reporting probationary period without upfront jail time.
Take a young adult facing a minor in possession of alcohol offense. The offense by statute is not punishable by any jail time. However, several judges were using their Contempt of Court powers to jail offenders for violations of their probationary conditions. It was only recently this sentencing pattern was stopped by reviewing courts.
Other courts have used their Contempt of Court powers to assess fines of $7,500 on offenses with a $500 maximum fine. This practice is still ongoing in at least one jurisdiction. The problem with this type of judicial behavior rests with the lack of accountability. Most individuals are barely able to pay the court assessments, but when the courts exceed those assessments, it is more difficult to make ends meet. Those who can afford to pay these assessments in excess of the statutory maximum penalty typically do not want to put more money into the court system to correct the injustice. This leaves it to attorneys with appellate skills to take a case on appeal without the benefit of a client to carry the costs.
Call your State Representatives to address this injustice.
 People v Crook, 162 MichApp 106 (1987).