The Michigan Legislature has recently passed a series of laws that change the way prisoners are released from jail and prison. The effect of these laws could mean that it will be harder for prisoners to be released on parole or work/school release programs.
2012 P.A. 623 (Effective January 9, 2013)
Before a prisoner can be released on parole, he must now sign a written consent form which will allow his parole officer to search his person or property. This standing consent will last as long as the prisoner is on parole. The statute does state that searches conducted cannot be with the sole intent to intimidate or harass the parolee, but does not provide any protections or recourse for that kind of a search.
This act does not actually change the substance of the law in Michigan. Parolees (and probationers) have long been subject to warrantless searches under a constitutional warrant exception. However, this written consent gives the parole officers added protections and makes it clear to the parolee that these searches may lawfully occur.
The Probation Swift and Sure Sanctions Act (Effective January 9, 2013)
This act organizes several statutes and procedures used when placing a person on probation following a felony conviction. It does not apply to misdemeanors. It creates a state-wide fund that local courts may opt into so they can immediately detect probation violations and punish probation violations quickly. To that end probationers are to be arrested as soon as a violation is detected and brought before a judge within 72 hours. Immediate sanctions should be imposed and repeated violations will be met with increasing penalties. Penalties can include:
- Probation revocation,
- Temporary jail time,
- Extension of the probation period,
- Additional reporting requirements,
- Further restrictions on behavior,
- Drug and alcohol testing,
- Counseling or treatment for mental health issues or substance abuse.
To promote uniformity, the state court administrative office may create eligibility criteria and mandatory or recommended sanctions for various violations.
This new law has the potential to make life much more difficult for felony probationers. If a person on probation commits even a minor violation (such as not paying a fee on time), she will be arrested and brought before the judge up to 3 days later. The judge will also have less discretion in determining the sanctions to apply for each violation. Perhaps most importantly, the requirement that the judge issue immediate sanctions could interfere with the probationer’s ability to contact her attorney or have representation at the probation violation hearing.
2012 PA 612 and 2012 PA 613 (Effective March 1, 2013)
Michigan law gives judges the discretion to allow an inmate to be released from jail in order to seek employment, maintain previous employment, run his own company or household or participate in education or mental health counseling and treatment. These new laws require the county sheriff or the Department of Corrections to verify that the inmate is actually employed or enrolled before releasing the inmate for any of the reasons described above. This verification must happen within 7 days of sentencing. In any case, the county sheriff must give approval to the release and can withdraw approval at any time. A person may also not interfere with any electronic monitoring device issued as a condition of this release or any other alternative to incarceration either before or after conviction.
The additions of sheriff approval and work verification in these new laws could make it more difficult for an inmate to actually be released to participate in work or school. Also, this law places the sheriff’s discretion above the judge’s as to which inmates should be released. Finally, the 7 day delay could negatively affect the inmate’s employment or enrollment where attendance is a concern.
2012 PA 610 (Effective March 28, 2013)
This new law requires any person convicted of a felony and then released for one of the above purposes to be ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device also known as a â€œtether.â€ The signal from that device will be monitored by the county sheriff to be certain that the person complies with her work release requirements. The person is responsible for the costs associated with the tether device.
Again, this new law limits the judge’s discretion by requiring tether on all work release cases. It also has the potential to limit the number of total work-release inmates due to a limit on the number of tether devices.
All together, these laws place significant restrictions on the court, probationers, and parolees. They will make it harder for individuals to receive accommodations from sympathetic judges. They also impose more regular penalties for probation violations, further restricting the judge’s discretion. It is clear that the legislature is concerned about the number of probation violations and the frequency of repeat offenses, and is prepared to take steps to stop them.
*Please note: Every case is different, and there may be some aspect of your particular cas which may result in an outsome other than is descriged above. This post is not intended as legal advice and may not apply to your particular case. It is always best to contact our office for a consultation if you have been or believe you may be charged with a crime.