Blakely Factors in Sentencing – How Will They Effect Derek Chauvin’s Sentence?
Following Derek Chauvin’s verdicts, Judge Cahill addressed the issue of sentencing. Judge Cahill ordered that each side would be given time to file arguments regarding Blakely issues. This statement by Judge Cahill may have left you scratching your head and wondering “who is Blakely and what is a Blakely motion?”
To properly answer a question regarding “Blakely,” you first must have a basic understanding of the sentencing guidelines. The sentencing guidelines, which are in place in Minnesota, provide a mandatory framework for sentencing on felonies based on a defendant’s criminal history, as well as the seriousness of the underlying offense. When an individual is sentenced, their criminal history as well as their specific offense are each assigned a corresponding score, which determines where the individual’s sentence falls on the sentencing guidelines. This provides for a “guidelines” sentence length. Any sentence above or below the “guidelines” is considered a “departure” from the guidelines.
Now, we turn to Blakley motions in the context of sentencing. Blakely motions derive their name from Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004), a United States Supreme Court decision which examined the application of the sentencing guidelines and “departures” from the guidelines. In Blakely, the Court determined that a defendant has the right to have a jury, not a judge, determine if there are facts which justify a sentence which goes beyond the sentencing guidelines. Essentially, if the State seeks a sentence above the guidelines stated, evidence justifying the departure must be shown to the jury, and the State must prove that aggravating factors are present which support the departure. When the State seeks a longer sentence than the sentencing guidelines suggest, they file a Blakely motion explaining they think there are reasons for the “aggravated sentence.”
In the case of Derek Chauvin, Mr. Chauvin filed a Blakely “waiver,” which means that instead of the jury deciding whether there are aggravating factors, Judge Cahill alone will determine whether there are aggravating factors. The State’s Blakely motion is based on two factors: 1) Mr. Floyd was a vulnerable victim, 2) Mr. Floyd was treated with particular cruelty, 3) Mr. Chauvin abused his position of authority, 4) Mr. Chauvin committed the crime as part of a group of three or more persons who all actively participated in crime, 5) the crime occurred in the presence of children.
On May 12, 2021, Judge Cahill considered the arguments of the attorneys and ruled that there were aggravating factors. Specifically, he found the following factors existed: 1) Mr. Chauvin abused his position of authority, 2) Mr. Floyd was treated with particular cruelty, 3) the crime occurred in the presence of children, 4) Mr. Chauvin committed the crime as part of a group of three or more persons who all actively participated in crime. Because Judge Cahill found aggravating factors, on June 25th, when Mr. Chauvin is sentenced, Judge Cahill can give Mr. Chauvin a sentence longer than the guidelines sentence.