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Problems with Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

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Problems with Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

Mandatory minimums are laws which require automatic prison terms for certain crimes, such as drug possession. These laws were passed to ensure that certain criminals served long prison sentences. However, there a number of critics that have voiced their concerns about mandatory minimum sentences in the United States.

What Are Some Problems with Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws?

The biggest complaint about mandatory minimum sentences is that they are unfair. A judge does not have the authority to tailor the sentence to the specific facts. Therefore, someone who was an unimportant part of a drug conspiracy might be stuck with the same minimum sentence as someone who was the ringleader behind the crime. Mandatory sentencing laws also do not allow plea bargains, so even if the prosecutor wants to offer a reduced sentence for a plea, they cannot.

Another problem is that many non-violent offenders get hit with these sentences. Studies have shown that mandatory minimum sentencing laws are most often applied in federal court for drug cases. However, the vast majority of federal drug defendants are nonviolent.

Finally, many people feel that this policy leads to prison overcrowding. Many offenders who may have otherwise received short sentences, or not even been given a sentence, are imprisoned for many years due to mandatory sentences. As prison populations have grown exponentially, many judges and lawyers have argued that mandatory minimums should be abolished to fight this problem.

Do I Need an Attorney?

If you have been accused of a crime, you should speak with a lawyer immediately. Depending on your crime, you might have to face a mandatory minimum prison sentence. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to advise you on your options and provide you with a defense in court.

Photo of page author Jessica Tam

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 02-23-2018 12:59 AM PST

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