Michigan Supreme Court Holds that Ex Post Facto Clause Not Violated by Crime Victims' Assessment

On March 26th, 2014, the Michigan Supreme Court held that "imposition of the increased crime victim’s rights assessment did not violate the Ex Post Facto Clauses of the United States and Michigan Constitutions."

In People v. Earl, Docket No. 145677, the Court sentenced defendant following his conviction for bank robbery and possession of less than 25 grams of heroin and cocaine.  At the time defendant committed the offenses, MCL 780.905 required that all defendants found guilty of a felony pay a $60 crime victim’s rights assessment.  

The statute was amended effective December 16, 2010, however, to raise the crime victim’s rights assessment for convicted felons to $130.  Defendant was sentenced on February 15, 2011, and was ordered to pay $130 for the crime victim’s rights assessment.

Defendant appealed and claimed, among other things, that the increased assessment was an increased punishment in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clauses of the Michigan and United States Constitutions. The Court of Appeals affirmed the $130 assessment, holding that it is not punitive, and, therefore, does not violate the bar on ex post facto laws.

Defendant appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, and the Court accepted his application for leave to appeal.  After briefing and argument, the Michigan Supreme Court held that "imposition of the increased crime victim’s rights assessment did not violate the Ex Post Facto Clauses of the United States and Michigan Constitutions."

The Court reasoned that the increased fee was more civil than criminal in nature, and also that the increased fee served a legitimate interest in compensating crime victims.