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Mandatory Lifetime Monitoring a Direct Consequence of Sex Offense Plea Bargain in Michigan

The Michigan Supreme Court has held that mandatory lifetime electronic monitoring is a direct consequence of a plea to first-degree criminal sexual conduct or second-degree criminal sexual conduct. As such, when a defendant enters a guilty or no contest plea, the trial court must inform the defendant that he or she will be subject to such monitoring.

David M. Cole was charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct for sexual acts involving one of his stepdaughters, who was under age 13 at the time of the offenses. As part of a plea bargain, the trial court agreed to not exceed a five-year minimum term of imprisonment for each charge, with the sentences to run concurrently. At Cole’s June 2, 2009 plea hearing, the state described the charges and explained that they carried a maximum of fifteen years and required testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Cole was never advised he would be subject to lifetime electronic monitoring as a sex offender.

Following the plea hearing, Cole was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison. The court, as required by MCL 750.520c(2)(b), also ordered that he be placed on lifetime electronic monitoring following his release. Cole “moved to amend the judgment of sentence or permit withdrawal of his plea, arguing in part that the failure to advise him of the mandatory penalty of lifetime electronic monitoring rendered his plea involuntary.” The appellate court, in a split opinion, reversed and remanded to allow Cole to withdraw his plea. See: People v. Cole, Court of Appeals of Michigan, Docket No. 298893; 2011 WL 895243 (March 15, 2011).

The Supreme Court upheld the appellate ruling, finding that MCR 6.302 and the Due Process Clause require plea agreements to be “understanding, voluntary, and accurate.”
The Court noted that while there has been considerable debate about the exact placement of the dividing line between collateral and direct consequences of a plea, “we need not explore this oft-nuanced distinction because we agree with the Court of Appeals that mandatory lifetime electronic monitoring is part of the sentence itself.” See: People v. Cole, 491 Mich. 325, 817 N.W.2d 497 (Mich. 2012).

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Related legal case

People v. Cole