Just over one year has passed since George Floyd was murdered by Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020. On April 20, 2021 a 3-week trial concluded with the jury finding Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter. With his sentencing scheduled for later this month on June 25, the question on the minds of many is how much time Chauvin will ultimately serve behind bars.
How long could Chauvin be sentenced for?
Derek Chauvin’s convictions carry varying maximum sentences. His second-degree murder charge, which applies for committing an assault which played “a substantial role in causing an unintentional death”, carries a maximum sentence of 40 years. Although Chauvin’s third-degree murder and manslaughter charges would typically carry up to 25 years and 10 years in jail respectively, he will not serve any additional time for these crimes. While the total of these three charges adds up to a maximum of 75 years, Minnesota guidelines recommend sentences be served concurrently. This means that Chauvin faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in total.
How long is Chauvin likely to be sentenced for?
Although the maximum sentence is 40 years, Minnesota guidelines recommend less time for offenders without a criminal record. Since Derek Chauvin has no prior convictions, sentencing guidelines would typically recommend a sentencing between 10-15 years. In addition to this, officers have historically been given more leniency at sentencing time. In general, it is very rare for police officers to be charged for on-duty killings. According to Philip Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green University, only 142 non-federal police officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter since 2005. Of those charged, only 7 officers had been convicted of these charges prior to Chauvin, with an average of 16.4 years sentenced. For reference, the average sentence for a murder conviction in the United States was around 48 years as of 2018 (U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics).
How does race play a role in Chauvin’s sentencing and chances of parole?
Beyond the fact that Derek Chauvin is a police officer with no prior convictions, his chances of receiving a lower sentence statistically improve because he is white. For reference, imprisonment rates for African-American and Hispanic adults are 5.9 and 3.1 times the rate for white adults, respectively. In addition to this, nearly half of the 200,000+ people serving life sentences are African American (The Sentencing Project).
“The racial disparities in the adult and juvenile justice systems stem in part from the policing and pretrial factors…and are compounded by discretionary decisions and sentencing policies that disadvantage people of color because of their race or higher rates of socioeconomic disadvantage.” - The Sentencing Project
Regardless of the number of years Chauvin is sentenced for, it is unlikely that he will serve the full duration. Parole is typically granted two-thirds of the way through a sentence in Minnesota for good behavior. In addition to this, Chauvin is more likely to be granted parole because he is white, as racial bias among parole boards and correctional officers can have a serious impact on parole outcomes. Discriminatory sentencing and racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system such as these are contributing to the anxiety felt by the Black community.
How could aggravating factors make a difference in sentencing?
While a sentencing longer than 10-15 years would typically be unlikely under these circumstances, Chauvin could still be sentenced to longer due to aggravating factors. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill stated that Chauvin treated Floyd with “particular cruelty” because of the “prolonged nature of the asphyxiation”. Floyd made it clear that he could not breathe, as evidenced by him stating it nearly 30 times in the video footage filmed by a witness of the crime. Other aggravating factors include that the crime was committed in the presence of children, and that it involved the active participation of at least 3 other people. Prosecutors are asking for a higher number of years than the minimum sentence due to these aggravating factors.
What are the next steps for Chauvin and the other officers involved in George Floyd’s murder?
The three other officers involved in the arrest are facing trial for aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. All three of the officers were fired and are currently out on bail awaiting trial on August 23. Derek Chauvin is currently being held at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Oak Park Heights awaiting his sentencing later this month.
Get to the point: Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter for George Floyd’s horrific murder on May 25, 2020. Chauvin faces sentencing on June 25, 2021, in which he could serve a maximum of 40 years. Due to Minnesota law and Chauvin’s lack of a criminal record prior to the murder, he could be sentenced for as little as 10-15 years. Although these circumstances will certainly play a role, there are also aggravating factors which could increase the number of years Chauvin will be sentenced for.