Knowing what a mandatory minimum sentence is can be beneficial in understanding how much trouble you might be in when you are facing criminal charges. But, what does that mean?
What is a Mandatory Minimum Sentence?
There are some sentences that require a minimum amount of time in prison or a certain threshold of fines. These tend to be offenses that are more frequent, and the minimums are meant to make the impact on the judicial system a lighter one. By implementing a mandatory minimum sentence, the government is allowing an easier sentence, which they intend to speed up the court process. It was performed in 1951 when the Boggs Act was passed, making the first possession charge one that came with a two to ten-year sentence and a twenty thousand dollar fine. In 1973, the state of New York made the minimum fifteen years in confinement; making the discerning factor the court the case was being processed in and who was issuing the charges.
What is the Sentencing Process?
After the jury determines the guilt of the defendant, the judge decides on the sentence. This tends to be after you have pleaded guilty or are found to be guilty after a trial. State and federal sentencing can differ, and the court has the final say in sentencing. The penalty is meant to be proportionate to the crime, and the minimum and maximum depend on the crime. A judge has some leeway unless the crime requires a mandatory minimum sentence. There is some margin for mitigating or extenuating circumstances which the judge can take into consideration. This can be whether you were just an accessory or outwardly associated with the offense, whether you tried to prevent harm or the crime itself, and what your state of mind was at the time. The judge will weigh these factors, and their decision is the one that will be the final word. Your sentence is the voice of that decision.
There is some margin for mitigating or extenuating circumstances which the judge can take into consideration. This can be whether you were just an accessory or outwardly associated with the offense, whether you tried to prevent harm or the crime itself, and what your state of mind was at the time. The judge will weigh these factors, and their decision is the one that will be the final word. Your sentence is the voice of that decision.
How Courts Determine Sentences?
Aside from the charge itself, the largest influence on a sentence tends to be whether the plaintiff has prior convictions. While there are other factors that may help a verdict along or determine the sentence, this tends to be the most common weight. The judge will make the final decision and issue the sentence. There are times they offer leniency, and this tends to be at their discretion. While the sentencing is at the mercy of the judiciary, they do have to operate within the confines of the law. So, mandatory minimums must be satisfied, and they can not exceed the maximum. If you receive a third felony conviction, and any of the three are violent, you can end up serving life in prison. This is a by-product of the three strikes laws, which have become a bit controversial.
Is A Mandatory Minimum Sentence Necessary
There is a big debate of whether the sentences are necessary or they are just a tool for the government in enacting its agendas. Supporters of the bill say that the mandatory minimum sentences secure fairness. By having a minimum across the board, that takes into account the crime and prior convictions; you are sending a message that it doesn’t matter who commits the crime or why. The aggression will land you a specified reaction, and that will be regardless of any social or economic standings. Before the mandatory minimum sentence passed, judges had an insignificant limitation on abilities.
Those who oppose the mandatory minimum sentence say that it is ineffective. They argue that while the sentencing acts as a deterrent, it isn’t. The obstacle is that while states require mandatory minimum sentences, the criminal weighs the possible punishment versus the likelihood of arrest. Sure, there is a penalty. But, how likely are you to face it; if the police don’t catch you? Another argument is that eliminating circumstances around the crime allows lower-level offenders to serve their sentence the same way a higher level offender would. You can read more about recent developments here. The law has been in place since 1994. However, some states have an equivalent.
Contact an Attorney
If you find yourself in a situation, where mandatory minimum sentencing is a concern, you should ask your attorney about any questions you may have. They will be familiar with your case and be able to offer you guidance and an idea of what to expect. You can start here. This is when their experience can be helpful. If they have tried cases like yours and seen how it will play out, they can give you a range of worst and best case scenarios. They are also experts in the law and can advise you on any actions that will improve your situation or prevent you from achieving the best verdict.