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How Long Will Derek Chauvin's Sentence Be?

ST PAUL, MN - MARCH 19: A woman looks on as people march near the Minnesota State Capitol to honor George Floyd on March 19, 2021 in St Paul, Minnesota. This morning Judge Peter Cahill rejected motions for change of venue and continuance by the defense of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of killing George Floyd last May. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
By Andrew Leonatti on April 26, 2021

In one of the most closely watched criminal trials in recent memory, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on all three counts in the death of George Floyd.

After announcing Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter, Judge Peter Cahill revoked Chauvin's bail, immediately sending him back to prison.

Chauvin's sentencing hearing is on June 16. While guidelines are clear about the sentence Chauvin should receive, prosecutors are seeking a longer sentence. Here's what you can expect to see in the coming weeks.

Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines

In Minnesota, the maximum prison sentence for second-degree unintentional murder is 40 years. It is 25 years for third-degree murder and 10 years for second-degree manslaughter. Under state law, Chauvin will only be sentenced for the most serious offense, second-degree unintentional murder. If, for example, Chauvin has only the second-degree murder conviction thrown out on appeal, he could still be resentenced on the third-degree murder conviction.

Chauvin, however, has no prior criminal record. That means, according to recommended sentencing guidelines, Chauvin could receive a sentence for second-degree unintentional murder in the range of 128 months (10 years and eight months) to 180 months (15 years).

How Can Prosecutors Seek a Longer Sentence?

The process does not end at the sentencing guidelines. Instead, prosecutors gave notice that they want to seek a sentence that goes beyond the guidelines. Prosecutors are arguing that several aggravating factors warrant a longer sentence, including that:

  • The crime happened in the presence of children
  • Chauvin used his status as a police officer to commit the crime
  • Chauvin knew Floyd was in pain and having trouble breathing
  • Chauvin kept assaulting Floyd after he lost consciousness and medical assistance arrived at the scene

Chauvin waived his right (under the Supreme Court's Blakely v. Washington ruling of 2004) to have the jury determine whether these aggravating factors apply. Instead, Cahill will determine whether prosecutors proved these aggravating factors beyond a reasonable doubt in the coming weeks.

Should Cahill find that the "Blakely" factors apply, he could go beyond the sentencing guidelines and give out a sentence of as long as 40 years.

What Happens Next?

After Cahill makes his ruling on the Blakely factors, he will also consider the result of a presentence investigation. The Minnesota Department of Corrections will conduct this investigation. They can interview Chauvin, his family members, and members of George Floyd's family.

The report could outline whether Chauvin shows any remorse, his risk of committing other crimes, and other factors that could impact whether he is eligible for parole after a certain length of time in prison.

Chauvin, his family, and Floyd's family will also all have the opportunity to speak at the sentencing hearing in June. Chauvin's likely appeals to both state and federal courts will then come later this year.

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