Michigan Supreme Court Holds Birth Anniversary Determines Age Under Miller

On December 2nd, 2014, the Michigan Supreme Court held in a criminal case that, for purposes of determining whether a person is a juvenile or an adult under Miller v. Alabama, courts should use the anniversary of the person's birth as opposed to the common-law rule of using the day before the anniversary of the person's birth to determine a person's age at the time they commit a criminal offense.

In People v. Woolfolk, Docket No. 149127, the Michigan Supreme Court addressed the issue of how to determine a person's age at the time they commit a criminal offense.

From the opinion's syllabus:

Deandre M. Woolfolk was convicted following a jury trial in the Wayne Circuit Court of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony for his part in a fatal shooting that took place one to two hours before defendant’s 18th birthday. The court, Vera Massey Jones, J., sentenced defendant to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder conviction and a consecutive two-year term for the felony-firearm conviction. Defendant appealed, alleging, among other things, that sending him to life in prison without the possibility of parole violated the Eighth Amendment under Miller v Alabama, 567 US ___; 132 S Ct 2455; 183 L Ed 2d 407 (2012), because he had not yet turned 18 when the crime was committed. The Court of Appeals, BOONSTRA, P.J., and DONOFRIO and BECKERING, JJ., affirmed the convictions but remanded for resentencing, holding that defendant did not attain the age of 18 until the anniversary date of his birth and that the common-law rule, under which one becomes of full age the first moment of the day before the anniversary of his or her birth, did not apply to defendant. 304 Mich App 450 (2014). The prosecutor applied for leave to appeal, and defendant applied for leave to cross-appeal.

In a memorandum opinion signed by Chief Justice YOUNG and Justices MARKMAN, KELLY, ZAHRA, MCCORMACK, and VIVIANO, the Supreme Court, in lieu of granting leave to appeal and without hearing oral argument, held:

A defendant is a juvenile for the purposes of Miller when he or she is under the age of 18 as determined by his or her anniversary of birth. By this calculation, defendant remained under the age of 18 at the time he committed the instant homicide offense and is therefore entitled to be treated in accordance with the rule in Miller.