Last week, Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three accounts for his role in the death of George Floyd. Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes while Floyd was in custody. When you hear that he was found guilty on all three charges, you might assume that Chauvin will face an extremely long sentence, but that’s far from a guarantee. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at what we can expect from Chauvin’s sentencing hearing.
Derek Chauvin’s Sentence
It was recently announced that Chauvin will be sentenced on June 16, and until then he will be held in a single cell at Minnesota’s only maximum-security prison. But what kind of sentence may he face now that he’s been found guilty?
Well for starters, he’ll actually only be sentenced on one of the three charges. Because the charges all stemmed from different theories of the same act, he’s not going to be sentenced on all three charges. He’ll be sentenced for the most serious of the three charges, which was second-degree unintentional homicide.
Second-degree unintentional homicide carries a maximum sentence of up to 40 years in jail, but it’s unlikely Chauvin will get the maximum amount. That’s because Minnesota has sentencing guidelines in place that are meant to ensure neutral sentences without factors like race, gender or sexual orientation playing into the equation. These “presumptive sentences” should only be ignored when there exists “substantial and compelling circumstances” that require an extended sentence.
Because Chauvin does not have a previous criminal record, he qualifies for the presumptive sentencing guidelines unless the presiding judge feels that those compelling circumstances exist. We won’t know if the judge believes those circumstances exist until sentencing, but it would not be uncommon for the judge will stay within the presumptive sentencing limits.
What Is The Presumptive Sentence?
For second-degree unintentional murder, the standard sentence in Minnesota under the presumptive sentencing guidelines is 12.5 years. These guidelines also list an appropriate sentencing range, meaning that the judge can sentence Chauvin to anywhere from 10 years and eight months to 15 years in jail and still be within a presumptive range.
If the judge decided that he could depart from the presumptive sentencing guidelines, what type of sentence could we see? In Minnesota, the state Supreme Court set a standard for the maximum departure for increased sentences. In the 1981 case of State v. Evans, the court held that when an upward departure is justifiable, “the upper limit will be double the presumptive sentence length.”
Since the upper limit of the presumptive sentencing guidelines in Chauvin’s case is 15 years, the likely maximum sentence would be double that, which is 30 years. Anything beyond that would open things up to an appeal.
In conclusion, expect Chauvin to be sentenced to around 12.5 years in prison, but don’t be surprised if he gets up to 30 years if the judge rules that compelling circumstances allow for a significant upward departure of the presumptive sentencing limit. For more information, or for help with with your criminal case, reach out to Avery and the team at Appelman Law Firm today.