On Wednesday, Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that his central crime legislation, known as VO-4, passed from the Michigan House Judiciary Committee today. The VO-4 plan allows prosecutors to require a minimum 25-year sentence for certain repeat criminals who have committed four felonies while progressing to more violent crimes.

Schuette’s team led by Director of Public Affairs Rusty Hills testified at today’s hearing and was joined by Detroit Police Officer Arthur Matthews, Saginaw County Prosecutor Mike Thomas, Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz, and Mrs. Linda Nehasil, widow of Livonia Police Officer Larry Nehasil.

The committee reported a house version of the bill by a vote of 11-1, with three members abstaining. The legislation now heads to the House floor for consideration.

“Today the House Judiciary Committee advanced legislation crafted to target the worst of the worst: repeat violent offenders,” said Schuette. “This legislation will break the cycle of violent crime by removing the most dangerous offenders from our streets. Public safety is the first priority of government, and VO-4 moves the needle in a positive direction, toward safer communities.”

Senate Bill 1109, introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), would implement the VO-4 (Violent Offense-Fourth Felony) sentencing reform by strengthening Michigan's Habitualization Law (MCL 769.12). The legislation targets the worst repeat violent offenders by establishing a prison sentence of at least 25 years for a select group of repeat violent criminals convicted of a serious violent crime after being convicted of three prior felonies, at least one of which was a violent assaultive crime.

During his testimony, Hills gave examples of convicted murderers with long rap sheets who would have been behind bars and been unable to commit murders had the tougher VO-4 sentencing provision been in place at the time of their fourth felony conviction.

Hills highlighted the case of Terry Bowling, 49, who was recently convicted of second degree murder and other crimes for his role in a home invasion that resulted in Livonia Police Officer Larry Nehasil being killed in the line of duty last year. Prior to facing the second degree murder charge, Bowling had six felony convictions and nine misdemeanors. Under Attorney General Schuette's proposal, Bowling would have faced a possible minimum of 25 years in prison after his fourth conviction for Armed Robbery in 1999, which occurred more than ten years before the death of Officer Nehasil.

Schuette has repeatedly pointed out that the cost of crime; physical, mental and monetary; to victims, families and our communities is immense. A study published online by the National Institutes of Health estimates that just one murder creates approximately $8.9 million in victim costs. Using their methodology, conservative estimates suggest that Michigan faced approximately $710 million in victim costs for its 556 reported murders in 2010 alone.

VO-4 is endorsed by: Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee, Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM), Michigan Sheriffs Association, Police Officers Association of Michigan, and Michigan Fraternal Order of Police, among others.