Anyone interested in criminal justice has likely heard of the term “mandatory minimums.” I heard the term while watching the news recently and decided to do more research to learn more about mandatory minimums. Keep reading to see what I found!
What are Mandatory Minimum Sentences?
Mandatory minimums are required sentences a defendant must be given if convicted of a certain offense. In other words, if you are convicted of a certain offense that has a mandatory minimum sentence attached to it, you will serve at least that minimum of years in prison.
Judges are not responsible for deciding the mandatory minimum sentences. They are decided on by Congress. Mandatory minimums were originally put into place to speed up the sentencing process and to prevent sentence disparities in the criminal justice system due to discretion by the judge.
The Different Mandatory Minimum Sentences
Under the law, every felony offense has a mandatory minimum sentence of at least one year in prison. Class A felonies — considered the most serious of all felony offenses — are attached to a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 15 years.
In the case of drug crimes, Congress decided that the first offense for a drug crime would carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 2-5 years while the second offense would carry a mandatory minimum of 5-10 years.
Arguments Against Mandatory Minimums
There are many arguments against the current mandatory minimum sentencing system:
A Shift in Discretion from Judge to Prosecutor
Many believe that mandatory minimum sentences give prosecutors too much power over the defendant. When deciding what charges to bring against the defendant, the prosecutor can stack up charges with mandatory minimums to compel the defendant to plead guilty to avoid some of the charges.
Ineffective in Reducing Crime
Some argue that mandatory minimums are not an effective deterrent of crime. Studies have shown that criminals are dissuaded from committing criminal acts from the increased chances of conviction, not an increased sentence. With one of the goals of the criminal justice system being reducing crime, many have found mandatory minimums to not be effective in completing that goal.
Mandatory Minimums and You
If you’ve recently been accused of a felony crime, you may be concerned about how a mandatory minimum sentence may affect your case. It is important that you don’t attempt to represent yourself and rely on the expertise and knowledge of a criminal defense attorney who has represented a wide variety of clients.
A good criminal defense attorney like the ones working at Horst Law will be able to discuss with you the possible mandatory minimum you may be facing in your case and will come up with the best defense possible or you to avoid serving that sentence.
No matter how much time you are facing, it is important not to panic and to stay calm — which is easier said than done of course. Make sure to spend time researching all your options for an attorney and to select one who truly knows the criminal justice system inside and out.