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People v. Rice

Court of Appeals of Michigan

February 14, 2017

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
ANTHONY MARK RICE, Defendant-Appellee.

         Eaton Circuit Court LC No. 15-020096-FH

          Before: Ronayne Krause, P.J., and O'Connell and Meter, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         Defendant, Anthony Mark Rice, pleaded guilty as a fourth-offense habitual offender, MCL 769.12, to operating or maintaining a methamphetamine laboratory, MCL 333.7401c(2)(f), and operating or maintaining a methamphetamine laboratory near a specified location, MCL 333.7401c(2)(d). The trial court sentenced Rice below the sentencing guidelines to serve concurrent terms of 48 months' to 35 years' imprisonment. The prosecution appeals Rice's sentence by leave granted.[1] We affirm.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Pursuant to a Cobbs[2] agreement, Rice admitted that he bought chemicals to manufacture methamphetamine in an apartment building. The trial court indicated that it would sentence Rice to the bottom of his recommended sentencing guidelines range. Between Rice's plea and sentencing hearing, the Michigan Supreme Court issued its decision in People v Lockridge, 498 Mich. 358; 870 N.W.2d 502 (2015).

         Rice's sentencing guidelines recommended a range of 72 to 240 months' imprisonment, and the assessment did not involve any judicial fact-finding. At his sentencing hearing, Rice presented evidence that he had been a model prisoner who worked in prison, participated in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and did not receive misconduct tickets. The trial court decided to depart downward from the sentencing guidelines. It acknowledged Rice's prior record and the nature of the crime for which he was sentenced, but it found that Rice's convictions primarily involved "poisoning" himself and that giving Rice the "benefit of the doubt" would help him make a positive change in his life.

         The prosecution argued that the trial court was mandated to apply the sentencing guidelines because Rice's case did not involve constitutionally impermissible judicial fact-finding and, therefore, Lockridge did not apply. The trial court determined that the Lockridge Court used broad language that rendered the sentencing guidelines advisory under all circumstances, and thus that it could treat the guidelines as advisory in Rice's case. The prosecution now appeals.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This Court reviews de novo issues of statutory interpretation. People v Williams, 475 Mich. 245, 250; 716 N.W.2d 208 (2006). We also review de novo questions of constitutional law. Lockridge, 498 Mich. at 373.

         III. ANALYSIS

         The prosecution argues that the Michigan Supreme Court's decision in Lockridge only renders the Legislative sentencing guidelines advisory in cases in which the defendant's sentence involved judicial fact-finding. Because the Lockridge Court did not limit its language in such a fashion, we disagree. We conclude that the Lockridge Court rewrote MCL 769.34(2) and (3) without exception, rendering the guidelines advisory in all cases.

         The Lockridge Court framed the issue as "whether the Michigan sentencing guidelines violate a defendant's Sixth Amendment fundamental right to a jury trial." Lockridge, 498 Mich. at 364. In answering this question affirmatively, the Court concluded that

the rule from Apprendi v New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466; 120 S.Ct. 2348; 147 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000), as extended by Alleyne v United States, 570 U.S.; 133 S.Ct. 2151; 186 L.Ed.2d 314 (2013), applies to Michigan's sentencing ...

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