Michigan, like most states, has laws designed to get tough with people who repeatedly violate the law. Anyone sentenced as a habitual offender is likely to spend more time behind bars than a first-time offender convicted of the same crime.
It makes sense. After all, if someone doesn't learn their lesson after being incarcerated a time or two, shouldn't they be locked up a little bit longer for committing a subsequent crime?
But the Michigan Supreme Court recently put the habitual offender concept in a whole new light when it reversed its previous rulings and decided that criminals can be sentenced as habitual offenders if their felony convictions stem from the same criminal act.
In cases in 1987 and 1990, the state Supreme Court ruled that according to the law, convictions arising from one criminal incident shouldn't be counted more than once to give defendants habitual offender status.
But five of the seven justices ruled that the habitual offender law contemplates counting each prior felony conviction separately.
This new interpretation of the law could have wide implications, including greater disparity in sentencing for similar crimes.
We think the court's original interpretation of the law's intent was correct: That people who repeatedly commit crimes should face harsher penalties.
But the Supreme Court's latest interpretation will stand unless legislation action is taken to clarify the law's language.
-- Battle Creek Enquirer