Not understanding what mandatory minimum sentences can be a very dangerous setback. While you might think that a crime is just considered a misdemeanor or a felony, there is more to it than that. There is more involved than just a specified consequence for the specified action, as well.
What Are Mandatory Minimum Sentences?
Some offenses require that there be a specified punishment, at the minimum. This means that with the conviction of the crime; there can be no less than that sentence. Regardless of how the judge or jury might feel about you or the crime, this is the least you will have to satisfy the court. This sounds like it might not be too bad, but it depends on the offense and the weight it carries. Some will require at least a year in jail. The problem then becomes that in cases that the defendant should have a bit of leniency or there are circumstances that should garner consideration, it won’t matter. There is nothing that can change the mandatory minimum sentences other than a change to the law. If your crime requires a monetary penalty that is far more than you can ever afford, there is nothing that anyone can do. And this is where people tend to have problems.
Why Are There Mandatory Minimum Sentences?
In 1951, the Boggs Act was passed. It made a possession charge carry a two-year minimum with a conviction. When New York made the minimum fifteen years in prison, it made the distinction that the court and the district determine the minimum sentence for each charge. This happened in 1973 and created a new air of justice. Originally, mandatory minimum sentences were a way to ease the weight on the courts. It was supposed to speed up the court process and make sentencing easier for judges and juries.
What is the Sentencing Process?
The judge determines the sentence after conviction. What the sentence will be is up to the judge, who can offer a bit of mercy or give you the maximum sentence. However, charges with mandatory minimum sentences will only allow a bit of leeway. There is still a requirement that the court will want you to satisfy. That might be jail time; it could be a fina fee or even community service. It will depend on the charge and what the law allows. This can be problematic when laws have antiquated minimums.
What Determines Sentences?
They tend to be a consideration of previous offenses and factors about guilt in your current case. The judge might offer a bit of consideration for other factors, depending on what your situation is and any outlying details that are related to the charge. However, where there are mandatory minimum sentences; that is the least you will receive a sentence. There is nothing that can be done about that since it is something that has to go through the legal process to amend a law first. In many cases, the mandatory minimum sentences are from a time when the crime was considered more heinous than it is today. If it is a possession charge, it could require years for a drug that is considered medicinal in particular cases. However, there is no change that the judge can make. This is where you will want to have an experienced attorney on your side.
Are Mandatory Minimum Sentences Necessary?
This is a topic of debate since there are more views on prison crowding. While the intention was a good one, there have been some cases that have left the public wondering if they are more of a problem than they are a solution. Especially since the laws remain the same and change is a long process. The judge used to have more flexibility in sentencing. Sure, mandatory minimum sentences reign in the ability that a judge has. And it may ease the sentencing process a bit. But, the time saved isn’t significant enough to justify the prison population. It also doesn’t allow extenuating circumstances to receive consideration. This can put even more of a burden on the corrections system.
If you have questions about mandatory minimum sentences, you should ask a criminal defense attorney. They will be familiar with your case and all of the details. Your lawyer will also know the charges you are facing and the court that will hear your case. This will have everything to do with what minimums there will be if any. Having an attorney with experience in this field will make all the difference in times like these. They will have seen cases like yours, and they will be able to advise you of an outcome or strategize a tactic to circumvent previous conclusions. If you want to read more about mandatory minimum sentences, check out this post.