Violent Offender Bill Now Heads To Governor’s Desk

LANSING – Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced that his central crime legislation, Senate Bill 1109, also known as VO-4, was passed today in the Michigan Senate.  The VO-4 plan allows prosecutors to require a minimum 25-year sentence for certain repeat criminals who have committed four felonies while progressing to more violent crimes.  The plan passed by a vote of 32 to 6 and has received strong bi-partisan support throughout the legislative process.  It now heads to the governor’s desk for his final approval.

“VO-4 helps ensure safer communities by helping to remove the most dangerous offenders from our streets,” said Schuette.  “I am pleased that leaders on both sides of the aisle put the safety of Michigan citizens first by supporting this important bill.”

Throughout the legislative process, Schuette’s office has referenced examples of convicted murderers with long rap sheets who would have been behind bars and unable to threaten the public had the tougher VO-4 sentencing provision been in place at the time of their fourth felony conviction.

For example, Terry Bowling, 49, was convicted of second degree murder resulting from a home invasion that caused the death of Livonia Police Officer Larry Nehasil.  Prior to facing the second degree murder charge, Bowling had six felony convictions and nine misdemeanors.  Under Attorney General Schuette’s proposal, Bowling would have faced 25 years in prison after his fourth conviction for armed robbery in 1999, which occurred 12 years before the death of Officer Nehasil.

Schuette has repeatedly pointed out that the cost of crime; physical, mental and monetary; to victims, families and our communities is immense.  A 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.

Senate Bill 1109, introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) and supported by Senate Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) and House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall), 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 violent repeat offenders by establishing a prison sentence of at least 25 years for a select group of criminals convicted of a serious violent crime after being convicted of three prior felonies, at least one of which was a violent assaultive crime.  SB 1109 previously passed the Michigan House with strong bipartisan support.

VO-4 is endorsed by: Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM), Michigan Sheriffs Association, Police Officers Association of Michigan, and Michigan Fraternal Order of Police, among others.