"Mandatory minimums" are sentencing laws that have recently been very popular. These laws require that a specified length of sentence be imposed if certain criteria are met. For instance, if someone is convicted of possessing half a kilogram of cocaine powder, he must be sentenced to at least five years in prison. Mandatory minimums were enacted in the 1980s at the height of fears about illegal drug use (specifically, the introduction of crack cocaine). The Anti-Drug Abuse Act created mandatory minimum sentences for certain federal drug offenses. Mandatory minimum sentences have since garnered much controversy.
Prior to the law, federal judges had discretion in sentencing. However, the new laws dictate the minimum sentences allowed. Sentencing was harsher for crack cocaine crimes than powder cocaine crimes. Also, the amount of the drug (rather than the convict's past criminal history or his role) governed the sentence the criminal received. For example:
Federal mandatory drug sentences are determined based on three factors:
Offenders may reduce their mandatory sentences by providing the prosecutor with "substantial assistance" in prosecuting other offenders.
Some people point out that mandatory sentencing does not deter crime. Among the arguments are:
Opponents also believe that mandatory minimums are costly, unjust, and do not eliminate sentencing disparities while failing to punish high-level "kingpins."
Last Modified: 06-07-2018 06:17 PM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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