After the jury convicted Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd on Tuesday, the former Minneapolis cop now faces sentencing. But how many years Chauvin will serve behind bars remains to be seen.
Here’s a breakdown of exactly how much prison time Chauvin could face when he’s sentenced by Hennepin County judge Peter Cahill, in about eight weeks.
Like most states, Minnesota has particular sentencing guidelines for convicted offenders. Luke Neuville, a criminal defense attorney based in Minneapolis, told VICE News that all three of Chauvin’s convictions—second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter—will likely be merged into a single sentence, with the most severe charge bringing the likely maximum time Chauvin will receive from the judge. Sentences for his other lesser convictions will likely be served concurrently.
In Chauvin’s case, the most severe conviction, second-degree murder, could carry a penalty of up to 40 years in prison. But Chauvin’s sentence won’t be as simple as slapping him with 40 years, because there are other determining factors.
“Chauvin’s got zero criminal history,” Neuville said, explaining that since this is the first time the former cop has been convicted of a crime, he will likely receive a much lighter sentence. “The guideline sentence in Minnesota is between 128 months to 180 months.”
That would mean anywhere from 10 and a half to 15 years in prison. But determining how much time Chauvin will serve doesn’t stop there. State prosecutors filed a Blakely motion last year, in which they argued that aggravating factors should warrant a more severe punishment.
“It could get much worse for Chauvin,” Neuville explained.
The state has asked for the judge to consider five extra factors in Chauvin’s sentencing: Floyd was vulnerable because he was in handcuffs, he was treated with “particular cruelty,” Chauvin abused a position of authority, committed a crime as part of a group, and committed a crime in the presence of “multiple children.”
Of those, the presence of children and the abuse of authority are most likely to be considered in the sentencing, according to Neuville.
The 9-year-old bystander who testified in court during the first week of the trial said that watching Floyd die as Chauvin kneeled on his neck and back for more than nine minutes made her “sad and kind of mad.”
“Arguably the child knew exactly what was going on, and this likely had a really traumatic effect on her. So that's a compelling argument in favor of the prosecution,” Neuville said.
The second aggravating factor that’s most likely to result in a longer sentence for Chauvin, according to Neuville, is the prosecution’s argument that he abused his state power.
“The state is alleging that Chauvin should be sentenced above the 180 months he faces because he was a government authority, and he abused that authority,” Neuville said.
The defense has already waived the jury’s right to weigh these aggravating factors, which means the decision about how much time Chauvin will serve in prison comes down to Judge Cahill.
“If Cahill finds that there's aggravating factors that apply to this case...that basically gives him the discretion to go all the way up to 40 years,” Neuville said. “A lot of times what judges do when they have an aggravating factor is they'll double whatever the subject’s sentence is. So Cahill might say, ‘Chauvin’s presumptive sentence is 150 months, I’m going to double it to 300 months.’ Or maybe he’ll bottom out at 128 months, and double it to 256 months because of these particular aggravating factors.’”
Ultimately, Chauvin’s sentence is based on how Judge Cahill perceives the severity of his crime.
There are two final factors to consider for Chauvin’s sentencing, both of which Judge Cahill will have no influence over.
In Minnesota, a convicted felon can have up to a third of their sentence knocked off for good behavior. Assuming Chauvin serves his time without causing any issues, this could considerably decrease the length of his time behind bars, and he’d spend the remaining third of his sentence on supervised release.
And before the start of his trial, Chauvin spent just over five months in custody before posting $1 million in bail last October. That time will likely be credited as time served.
Chauvin is being held at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Oak Park Heights in Stillwater, the same prison he was in before posting bail. A spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Corrections told CNN that he’s being held in a cell separate from the facility’s general population as a precautionary safety measure. He will appear in court for sentencing sometime in late June.