Mandatory minimum sentencing is a type of criminal sentencing that involves fixed fines and jail/prison sentences depending on the type of crime. In most criminal cases, the judge has a certain amount of discretion to set the sentence based on various factors. These may include the defendant’s age, personal background, previous criminal record, and the type of crime involved.

However, with minimum mandatory sentencing, the minimum amount of jail time or fines is set by statute. This means that the person will often have to face a minimum amount of years in jail or a minimum fine amount. This determination is based solely on the guidelines set forth by the minimum sentencing statute.

When Is Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Applied?

Not all crimes involve mandatory minimum sentencing. In fact, most criminal cases still depend on case law for creating sentencing (i.e. using sentences from previous similar cases as a guide for the sentence). Minimum sentences are only used in a handful of areas in criminal law, such as:

Thus, mandatory minimum sentencing is a somewhat limited concept that applies to select situations. However, these laws can affect a person’s criminal record and their rights as well.

Can a Mandatory Sentence Be Lessened?

In most cases, mandatory minimum sentences may not be adjusted or altered. This is why such laws are considered “mandatory”, because the sentences are required under law. However, some jurisdictions allow for mandatory sentences to be lessened if the defendant is willing to cooperate with authorities regarding additional investigations. This typically involves the defendant providing information on other suspects in related criminal investigations.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Mandatory Minimum Sentencing?

Sentencing laws may differ widely by state. They will also differ according to the type of crime involved.  It may be in your best interests to hire a qualified criminal attorney if you have any questions or legal issues involving sentencing laws. Your lawyer can discuss your rights with you, and can provide you with legal advice during trial sessions.