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Michigan Supreme Court says man can seek new trial

A Michigan man convicted of larceny and other charges has his choice of standing trial again or accepting his sentence after a ruling by the state Supreme Court.

The man pleaded guilty in a Kalamazoo, Michigan, court to second-degree home invasion, with the special status as a habitual offender added. However, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the judge in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court failed to let the defendant know of the possible maximum sentence he could face before the man entered his plea.

The man was charged with joining his girlfriend to steal more than $10,000 of money and guns in a home invasion. Because of his prior record of convictions, the state charged the man with larceny of a firearm, larceny in a building, being a felon in possession of a firearm and a second-degree home invasion as a habitual offender.

The judge told the man the maximum he could serve would be 15 years in prison, but he was sentenced to between six and 22 years in prison. The man did not object at that time but eventually asked for permission to withdraw his guilty plea or have a different sentence imposed. That was denied, and he appealed.

In their decision, the Supreme Court justices ruled that the court should have informed the defendant about the effect the habitual offender status had on a sentence. They also said that the guilty plea cannot be considered voluntary if the defendant is not told of the maximum sentence.

The justices left it up to the man to decide whether to keep the plea and the sentence as is or withdraw his plea. If he decides to do the latter, the trial court must set aside the conviction and sentence and hold a new trial.

The man was right to question the sentence if the trial court did not uphold the state law. The justices acted in this case in a manner that follows Michigan law and protects the rights of the defendant.

Source: MLive.com, "Kalamazoo man convicted of home invasion could get new trial or be re-sentenced after Michigan Supreme Court ruling," Emily Monacelli, Aug. 17, 2012

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