If The Law Changes While You’re in Prison, Do You Get Released?

Just because the crime that got you put away isn’t a crime anymore, doesn’t mean you’re entitled to a “get out of jail free” card.

Since the legalization of recreational marijuana in Michigan, you wouldn’t believe how many people call us up to ask this question. Or maybe you would. After all, practically everyone knows, or knows of, someone who’s serving time for a drug-related crime in Michigan. And given the fact that many of those drug crimes involve marijuana, it stands to reason that people would assume this: because weed is legal now, the people who were put away for selling or using it when it was illegal should get out of prison.

Except it doesn’t work that way, in Michigan or anywhere else.

We’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news, especially if you were anticipating the speedy release of a loved one doing time for a pot crime, but these are the facts. If something was illegal when you did it, and you were convicted under the law at that time, then that conviction stands. The fact that the law was later changed has no bearing on your sentence.

That isn’t fair! Why doesn’t it work that way?

Many people don’t agree with this aspect of the law, but that doesn’t change the reality of the situation. If having a dime bag of weed was against the law last year, and now it’s legal, that fact has no bearing on what you did last year. Why? Because at the time you knowingly broke the law. If the law happens to change later, it doesn’t have any effect on you or your sentence either way. The truth is, it has nothing to do with fair or not fair. Under Michigan law and federal law, if you break the law, knowing that you’re committing a crime, you can’t hope that later on the laws will change and your conviction will be automatically overturned.

So how do some people get released when laws change?

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, there are usually aspects of that situation that most people don’t know or think about. For example, in order for someone to be released from prison or jail after a law they were convicted under changes, the law would have to include specific provisions about releasing such convicts. Alternatively,those people would have to be freed by a governor (commutation or pardon), or a parole board.

So what can you do to get out of prison?

If you were convicted of a crime and the laws have since changed (just like the recent change in recreational marijuana laws here in Michigan), you have a couple of options.

  • You can ask your attorney to file an appeal on your behalf, however that only works if you’ve discovered errors in the way your case was handled, and believe it materially affected your conviction or sentence. But the appeal has to pinpoint a specific aspect of the case, and make a convincing argument that serious mistakes were made. Also, there are important time deadlines for appeals. And sometimes, there is no automatic right to appeal a case and therefore permission is needed to file the appeal. It’s complex stuff.
  • If there were no errors in your case that you’re aware of, you could also apply for a governor’s pardon. While these have a very low success rate for getting convictions overturned, they’re free to apply for, you don’t need an attorney, and you’ve got nothing to lose in the process.But don’t hold your breath.

Avoid conviction by having a great lawyer from the start!

Having a conviction overturned in Michigan is very hard, and requires a lot of time, expense and effort. However, one of the best ways to avoid all this is to avoid being convicted in the first place. And besides the obvious answer – don’t break the law – the best way to avoid a criminal conviction that lands you behind bars is to get a great attorney the moment you know the police are looking into you for any reason.

Call The Kronzek Firm for help!

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime in Michigan, then you have a fight ahead of you and you’re going to need help from some of the best criminal defense attorneys. Call The Kronzek Firm PLC at 1 866 766 5245 (866 7No Jail) today and speak to one of our top rated criminal defense attorneys. We’ve been successfully helping the people of Michigan defend themselves and their families against false allegations for decades. We’re available 24/7, including weekends, nights and holidays. We can help you too!

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