Court: Actual Psychological Injury Must Occur To Consider An Event For Scoring Purposes

Dec 26, 2017

The Michigan Supreme Court says a judge was wrong to increase the sentence of man convicted of armed robbery. That’s because the judge made an assumption at sentencing instead of using actual proof.

Anthony White robbed a gas station. During the robbery he held a gun to a victim’s head and the victim later said she heard the trigger being pulled. White later pleaded guilty to armed robbery and breaking and entering. He also admitted that the victim was afraid while he committed the crimes. At sentencing, the judge said White caused the victim serious psychological trauma. As a result, the judge increased the White’s sentencing score, which increased his overall sentence, even though the victim never testified to psychological trauma, nor was there evidence that trauma occurred. The judge justified the decision saying a normal person would experience trauma after that happened.

The Michigan Supreme Court said not so fast. In a recent opinion, the court said there has to be some evidence that trauma actually occurred. This evidence could be shown through a victim testifying to trauma or getting psychological treatment, but the court can’t assume trauma simply because of the characteristics of the crime.

In its opinion, the court said, “While crime victims are often obviously, and understandably, frightened when a crime is being perpetrated, this fear does not necessarily result in a ‘serious psychological injury’.”