EXPLAINER: If convicted, the sentence Officer Yanez could face

Officer Geronimo Yanez is charged with second-degree manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence up to ten years in prison. However, if convicted, defendants very rarely serve maximum sentences.

“The likelihood of a maximum sentence is almost nil,” Barry S. Edwards, a criminal defense attorney in Minneapolis, told Fox 9.

Instead, the ultimate sentence is determined by a series of complex steps.

Step #1: Sentencing Guidelines Grid

A grid determines the sentence range for a defendant. First, the severity of the offense is given a score. Second, the defendant’s criminal history is given a score. The box at the intersection of the two scores determines the possible sentence range.

For Yanez, if convicted, that range is likely 41 to 57 months. And remember, in Minnesota, inmates usually serve two-thirds of the sentence because of good behavior, which would put the sentence closer to 32 months.

But that’s just step one.

Step #2: Presentence Investigation Report

Next, after a conviction, a probation officer conducts a pre-sentence investigation, examining a defendant’s family, work, and criminal history, and also looking at mental health and other factors; the officer can offer reasons for increasing or decreasing the sentence.

“The judge will order a pre-sentence investigation. We’ll call it a PSI. The PSI usually takes, if the person is out of custody, six weeks,” Edwards said. “The probation office, which has a lot of power in these cases, will put together a recommendation.”

Step #3: Sentence Hearing

Finally, a judge will conduct a hearing and impose a sentence. The judge has the option of departing from the sentence, but the judge needs “specific findings of fact.”

“It’s the defense attorney’s job to make sure the human being is in front of the court,” Edwards said.

Plea deal?

Of course, a plea deal is the wild card that could affect the sentence the most.