Court overturns jail sentence by judge who said he wanted to protect fetus from defendant's drug use
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A Michigan appeals court has ordered a new sentence and a new judge for a pregnant woman whose sentencing judge said he wanted to keep her in jail until she gave birth to make sure her drug use didn’t harm the fetus.
“I’m going to do what’s necessary to protect the child,” Power said during the Dec. 14 sentencing hearing.
Power sentenced Hughes to 13 to 24 months in prison for violating probation on an earlier conviction for methamphetamine use and tampering with her electronic monitor. The woman’s due date was July 9, the date of the appeals court’s unpublished opinion ordering resentencing.
Hughes “has a history of methamphetamine use, cocaine use, and with an unborn child if she were to get out prior to delivery her child could very easily be damaged if she were to relapse into serious drug use,” Power said.
“We all the time encounter people I’m sentencing who have fetal alcohol syndrome or damaged In utero by drug use. It happens all the time. It’s a lifelong disability and we cannot take that risk, and a year in jail won’t even do it,” Power said.
The appeals court noted that Hughes’ sentence did fall within the range provided by sentencing guidelines. In this case, however, the judge erred, the appeals court said.
“Our review of the trial court’s articulated reasoning for fashioning defendant’s sentence begs the conclusion that but for defendant’s pregnancy, the trial court would have imposed a different or lesser sentence,” the appeals court said. “Essentially, the trial court determined defendant’s sentence term based on her pregnancy due date.”
The appeals court said the judge’s reasoning for imposing the sentence “is constitutionally inappropriate, prejudicial, and exemplifies extreme bias.”
The court ordered bond for Hughes along with her immediate release from custody.
A dissenting judge would have affirmed the sentence.
The appeals court had initially denied review in the case on June 20 after Hughes filed a delayed application to appeal. On June 28, the Michigan Supreme Court directed the appeals court to consider the appeal and make a decision on an expedited basis.