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Schuette Crime Bill Passes Senate Judiciary VO-4 Violent Offender Bill Heads To Senate Floor
May 8, 2012
LANSING - Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced that his central crime legislation, known as VO-4, passed from the Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon. The VO-4 plan allows prosecutors to require a minimum 25-year sentence for repeat criminals who have committed four felonies while progressing to more violent crimes.
Schuette was supported at the committee hearing by Detroit Police Officer Arthur Matthews, Michigan Chiefs of Police Executive Director Robert Stevenson, Barry County Prosecutor Tom Evans, Saginaw County Prosecutor Mike Thomas, and representatives from the Police Officers Association of Michigan, Fraternal Order of Police and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan.
The bill passed 4-0 and now is headed to the Senate floor.
"Government's first job is to protect people from crime and today we took a step toward improving public safety in our state," said Schuette. "Had VO-4 been law already, murders would not have happened. Repeat violent offenders, the worst of the worst, simply must be kept behind bars."
Senate Bill 1109, introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), would implement the VO-4 (Violent Offense-Fourth Felony) sentencing reform by strengthening Michigan's Habitualization Law (MCL 769.12). The legislation targets the worst repeat violent offenders by establishing a minimum prison sentence of at least 25 years for the select group of repeat violent criminals convicted of a serious violent crime after already being convicted of any three prior felony convictions.
During his testimony, Schuette gave four examples of convicted murderers with long rap sheets who would have been behind bars and been unable to commit those murders had the tougher VO-4 sentencing provision been in place at the time of their fourth felony conviction.
Schuette highlighted the case of Terry Bowling, 49, who was recently convicted of second degree murder and other crimes for his role in a home invasion that resulted in Livonia Police Officer Larry Nehasil being killed in the line of duty last year. Prior to facing the second degree murder charge, Bowling had six felony convictions and nine misdemeanors. Under Schuette's proposal, Bowling would have faced a possible minimum of 25 years in prison after his fourth conviction for Armed Robbery in 1999, which occurred more than ten years before the death of Officer Nehasil.
Under Schuette's plan, VO-4 would be triggered when a criminal's fourth conviction is a "serious violent offense," previously defined by the legislature as including*:
*First Degree Murder is not on the list of offenses because it already carries a mandatory life sentence.
Schuette pointed out that the cost of crime?physical, mental and monetary? to victims, families and our communities is immense. A recent study published online by the National Institutes of Health estimates that just one murder creates approximately $8.9 million in victim costs. Using their methodology, conservative estimates suggest that Michigan faced approximately $710 million in victim costs for its 556 reported murders in 2010 alone.
VO-4 has been endorsed by the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM), the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police and the Michigan Fraternal Order of Police.
In addition to his VO-4 sentencing reforms, Schuette has called for the addition of at least 1,000 new cops in communities statewide. Schuette notes that Michigan is facing the double tragedy of losing more than 3,200 law enforcement officers since 9/11, while also being home to four of America's top ten most violent cities, according to the FBI. Schuette has pledged to work closely with Governor Snyder, Senate Majority Leader Richardville and House Speaker Jase Bolger and legislative leaders to determine the most effective way to help local communities statewide with the severe decline of police officers.
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