7

Some years ago, a police officer named Derek Chauvin was found guilty of 2nd degree murder of George Floyd. He received a sentence of about 20 years. At the time it was reported that had he been a felon, the sentence would have been 40 years automatically.

At the same time Chauvin was also ordered to appear in court for felony tax evasion. On March 17th 2023 he was found guilty of felony tax evasion over several years from 2012 to 2019.

Does that mean “innocent until proven guilty” is to be taken literally? Even though the crime happened from 2012 to 2019, is it true that on March 16th 2023 he was innocent of tax evasion, and on March 17th 2023 he was guilty? Would he have gotten 40 years if (a) second degree murder was committed after March 2023, or (b) if he had been sentenced after that date?

8
  • 1
    that is a minnesota specific law, so added tags.
    – Trish
    Feb 5 at 19:01
  • 2
    The answer depends upon the language and interpretation of the Minnesota sentencing statute, not on the general doctrine of innocent until proven guilty. Usually such statutes apply recidivist penalties for convictions entered before sentencing on the current charge only, mostly for logistical reasons and to allow for finality. But ultimately, what matters is what the statute says (which I don't have time to research right now).
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 5 at 19:46
  • 2
    Who says "Innocent until proven guilty"? That's a lame cliche for legal dramas.
    – Greendrake
    Feb 5 at 23:55
  • 4
    This is an interesting question, but the title feels off the mark for me. I think something like"Why don't past crimes one is ultimately convicted of not influence sentencing of later crimes after the fact?" might be better. Feb 6 at 18:24
  • 5
    @Greendrake yet criminal charges are a matter of public record; accused are often named and shamed and mortified in public. The main purpose of the presumption is to place the burden of proof on the prosecution. Outside of the trial there really is no difference between "is" and "is presumed to be."
    – phoog
    Feb 6 at 23:46

2 Answers 2

8

The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines and Commentary clarify this on page 11:

Prior Felonies. Assign a particular weight, as set forth in paragraphs a and b, to each extended jurisdiction juvenile (EJJ) conviction and each felony conviction, provided that a felony sentence was stayed or imposed before the current sentencing or a stay of imposition of sentence was given before the current sentencing.

So this makes it clear that the relevant question is whether the sentence for the previous offense was "stayed or imposed," or an imposition of sentence stayed, before the current sentencing.

(I have linked the 2019 version of the guidelines because the rule is to use the guidelines in effect as of the date of the offense, namely the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. But later versions have the same phrasing.)

Chauvin was sentenced for the state murder charges on June 25, 2021. Since at that time, no sentence for tax evasion had been stayed or imposed (that didn't happen until 2023), it plays no role in determining the murder sentence, not even retroactively. It isn't relevant that the actual offense of tax evasion occurred much earlier - all that matters is the sequencing of the sentencing dates.

So the answer to this question has nothing to do with interpreting the phrase "innocent until proven guilty", nor with evaluating whether Chauvin was abstractly "innocent" or "guilty" of tax evasion prior to being convicted.

2

Minnesota uses a point system for sentencing for past convictions

https://mn.gov/sentencing-guidelines/assets/Guidelines%20Fundamentals_tcm30-513963.pdf

I doubt federal tax evasion is worth more than a point.

1
  • 2
    Chauvin's conviction in March 2023 was for Minnesota state tax evasion, not federal. Feb 6 at 16:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .