Michigan Supreme Court Holds Delayed Sentencing Statute Does Not Divest Jurisdiction

On June 18th, 2014, the Michigan Supreme Court held in a criminal case that the delayed sentencing statute, MCL 771.1(2), does not divest a trial court of jurisdiction to sentence a defendant once the one-year delay period lapses.  Rather, the statute simply requires that, once the one-year delay period passes, the trial court must sentence a defendant.

In People v Smith, Docket No. 147187, the Michigan Supreme Court addressed an appeal that arose after a trial court dismissed a defendant's criminal conviction after it imposed a delayed sentence a year earlier.  The trial court reasoned that it must dismiss defendant's conviction because it had no jurisdiction to sentence him once the one-year delay period passed.

From the opinion's syllabus:

Ryan C. Smith was charged in the Wayne Circuit Court with carrying a concealed weapon without a permit (CCW) in violation of MCL 750.227. Defendant pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of attempted CCW on May 12, 2011. At sentencing, defense counsel urged the court to delay sentencing for one year under MCL 771.1(2), but the prosecutor objected to a delayed sentence and asked that defendant be sentenced to probation in accordance with the plea agreement. The court, Vera Massey-Jones, J., expressing concern that a felony conviction would limit defendant’s employment opportunities, asked the parties to file sentencing memoranda and return to court to discuss whether delayed sentencing would be appropriate. The court noted its desire to delay sentencing for one year and a day, at which point it would have lost jurisdiction over the case. When the parties returned to court, the court announced that it would delay the sentencing for one year and stated on the record that it was scheduling defendant’s sentencing for June 15, 2012, which would have occurred within the one-year statutory period. However, the order signed that day, as well as the entry in the register of actions, reflected that the court had actually scheduled defendant’s sentencing for June 18, 2012, precisely one year and one day later. At sentencing on that date, over the prosecutor’s objection, the court refused to sentence defendant and dismissed the case entirely, citing its lack of jurisdiction. The prosecutor filed a delayed application for leave to appeal in the Court of Appeals, arguing that MCL 771.1 did not permit dismissal of the case. The Court of Appeals denied the prosecutor’s delayed application for leave to appeal in an unpublished order issued May 7, 2013 (Docket No. 312242). The Supreme Court granted the prosecutor’s application for leave to appeal. 495 Mich 858 (2013).

In an opinion by Chief Justice YOUNG, joined by Justices MARKMAN, KELLY, ZAHRA, MCCORMACK, and VIVIANO, the Supreme Court held:

MCL 771.1(2) does not divest a sentencing judge of jurisdiction if a defendant is not sentenced within one year after the imposition of a delayed sentence. The one-year limitation MCL 771.1(2) places on the period in which a court may delay sentencing designates the maximum amount of time that sentencing may be delayed in order to provide defendant the chance to establish his worthiness of leniency. After one year, sentencing may no longer be delayed for that purpose, and the judge is required to sentence defendant as provided by law. Previous Court of Appeals cases were overruled to the extent they held that a court may not sentence a defendant if the one-year period of delay was exceeded.