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141513 - People v Harris (Scott)

The People of the State of Michigan,
Charles F. Justian
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals),
(Muskegon – Hicks, T.)
Scott Bennett Harris,
Jacqueline J. McCann


​Scott Harris was divorced from Lavonne Harris in November 2003. The family court ordered him to pay child support for two of his children. After failing to pay child support for about five years, Harris was criminally charged, under MCL 750.165 and as a fourth-felony habitual offender, with felony non-payment of child support. Harris entered a guilty plea in the criminal proceeding in exchange for a sentencing agreement pursuant to People v Cobbs, 443 Mich 276 (1993). The court agreed that sentencing would be delayed by two months, until December 8, 2008; if Harris paid $3,000 of the amount owed by that date, the court would further delay sentencing until May 2009. If Harris paid another $5,000 on the arrearage by May 2009, the court agreed that it would not sentence Harris to any type of incarceration. Harris would still be subject to the imposition of probation, fines, costs, or tether, however.

On December 8, 2008, Harris appeared before the court for sentencing, but without making the $3,000 payment; his attorney argued that Harris was indigent. The court sentenced Harris to 15 months to 15 years in prison. The court also ordered costs and restitution in the amount of $12,781.39 – the amount of the family court arrearage. Harris filed a motion to withdraw his plea or for resentencing, but the court denied his motion. Under People v Adams, 262 Mich App 89 (2004), felony non-payment of support is a strict liability crime, and Harris’ claimed inability to pay was not relevant, the trial court stated. The court further ruled that Harris was bound by the sentence agreement, and that it was not improper for the court to adopt the restitution amount set by the family court. Harris sought leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals, which denied Harris’s application for lack of merit. Harris appeals.