St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Felony Sentencing

Felony Sentencing by Video Impermissible According to Michigan Supreme Court

Felony Sentencing

In today’s world, everything is becoming more and more technological, even court proceedings. For this reason, the Supreme Court of Michigan was recently considering the question of whether a defendant who is ‘present’ at court proceedings through videoconference could be sentenced in the same way as a defendant who is physically present in the courtroom. According to the Michigan Supreme Court, due to a presumption that being virtually present is not the same as being physically present for sentencing; a defendant cannot be sentenced by videoconference. Thus, a change to Rule 6.006(D) that would have allowed defendants present at a location other than in the courtroom to be sentenced for felonies has been rejected. If this proposed rules change applies to you or anyone that you know, you need a Michigan criminal defense attorney such as Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC on your side.

Reason that the Proposed Rule Change Was Rejected

The proposed rule change that would have allowed defendants who are in prison, jail, or another location to be sentenced by videoconference so long as they have waived their right to be present in the courtroom was rejected due primarily to the assertion that defendants may feel pressured to accept the high-tech option over actually being present in the courtroom. Because the use of videoconferencing could save both time and money for the court system as well as help the courts and those who work for them avoid the dangers associated with transporting some prisoners, there would be a strong incentive for judges, prosecutors, and prisons to push for videoconferencing in many cases, sometimes against the wishes of the defendant.

Another reason that the rule was rejected is that, according to some, it is vital that the defendant be present in the courtroom during sentencing as this is the defendant’s opportunity to address the court and for the victim to address the defendant.

In July, the Michigan Court of Appeals also ruled on the same issue in the case of People v. Heller in which the court found that the absence of the defendant from the proceeding nullified the dignity of the proceedings and the participants to those proceedings and rendered the proceedings fundamentally unfair.

Videoconferencing in Mental Health Proceedings

The Michigan Supreme Court also heard testimony concerning the use of videoconferencing in mental health proceedings in which the subject’s behavior may interfere with the hearing or the subject may be placed in danger by attending the hearing.

If you or someone you know is interested in gaining further information about videoconferencing at felony sentencing hearing and in mental health proceedings, contact Peter J. Johnson, Law Office, PLLC., Michigan’s top criminal defense attorney, today at 269.982.1100 for the best legal advice and representation or visit

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