Alabama sentencing guidelines suggest former sheriff Mike Blakely won’t face prison time

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LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. – Mike Blakely, who served as Limestone County sheriff for 38 years before his conviction on theft and ethics charges August 2, will be sentenced next Friday, August 20.

Despite requesting bond, Blakely has been in jail since his conviction.

Blakely was convicted of first-degree theft of property and use of his official position for personal gain. Both are Class B felonies that carry a sentencing range of 2 to 20 years in prison.

But under Alabama law, Blakely is unlikely to face prison time, as the theft charge falls under Alabama’s presumptive sentencing guidelines. The guidelines largely direct judges to sentence based on a sentencing score derived from a worksheet.

Huntsville attorney Ron Smith said the worksheet will be used in Blakely’s case.

“The worksheets are used for certain offenses and they’re non-violent offenses,” Smith said. “So, if you’re convicted, for example, of theft of property and some case that may not be in the worksheet, but it’s the same class of felony, you’re going to go by the worksheet.”

The use of office charge isn’t part of the guidelines, but the theft charge is a guideline offense.

That appears to be good news for Blakely.

Using the state’s worksheet that assigns points for the offense and then additional facts, including prior criminal history, prior jail time, use of a weapon, etc., Blakely scores a 10, which reflects a lack of any prior offenses and the nature of the theft charge.

Under the state’s score sheet, a 10 is considered a non-prison sentence.

It would take a minimum score of at least 15 on the guidelines for a prison sentence.

The sentence length worksheet puts him at 6 to 12 months jail time on a split sentence and 24 to 46 months for a straight sentence, but attorneys told News 19, that based on other cases, the split sentence, time in custody and then probation, would be 12 months in custody at most.

While it looks like Blakely could avoid a prison term based on the guidelines, the law also allows a non-prison custodial sentence, including up to 3 years in jail.

Prosecutors from the Alabama Attorney General’s office have said they will seek a custodial sentence for Blakely.

Under Alabama’s sentencing law the state can cite aggravators for the sentence. One aggravator that applies is that Blakely held public office at the time of the offense and the offense is tied to his conduct in office.

The court is supposed to be notified seven days before trial if an aggravator is going to be sought by the prosecution, that didn’t happen in Blakely’s case.  

A judge can waive the seven-day notice, but the defense is supposed to be notified so it can argue it. And, the defendant is entitled to have a jury consider the aggravator. That’s no longer possible, so the aggravator may not be allowed to be argued.  

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