The United States has an over-incarceration problem, and many people believe that mandatory minimum sentences are a major cause of this problem. Mandatory minimum sentences are imposed upon defendants who are convicted of particular crimes. These sentences are imposed by statute. If a defendant is found guilty of a crime that carries a mandatory minimum sentence, there is no leeway to consider extenuating circumstances or to determine if the punishment actually fits the crime. The defendant must serve at least the minimum sentence of imprisonment that the law requires.
Because charges carrying mandatory minimum penalties often result in draconian sentences which are disproportionate to a defendant’s actual culpability, it is vital that anyone facing criminal charges that could result in a mandatory minimum sentence contact a Schenectady criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You need to aggressively fight these charges to try to prevent unfair outcomes that could derail your life.
Mandatory minimums not only result in overly harsh sentences in many circumstances, but they can unfortunately have an even worse effect: prosecutors can coerce defendants to plead guilty to lesser offenses by threatening to bring charges for crimes carrying long mandatory minimums. Defendants who fear a guilty verdict for an offense that could result in decades of imprisonment may plead guilty even if they are innocent. These are among the many problems that have caused numerous legal groups and other advocacy groups to come out against mandatory minimums.
The ABA Comes Out Against Mandatory Minimums
One of the groups which has come out against mandatory minimums is the American Bar Association. The ABA announced that its House of Delegates approved the ban on mandatory minimums for many criminal cases.
The ABA made its decision after considering a report presented to the House of Delegates which showed that the U.S. has an imprisonment rate approximately five to eight times higher than Western European Countries and 12 times higher than the imprisonment rate in Japan. The report also revealed that the U.S. is not only imprisoning more people, but is also imprisoning people for much longer than ever before. Since mandatory minimum sentences were adopted for drug offenses and since mandatory minimums were made part of U.S. sentencing guidelines, the average sentence for defendants accused of federal crimes has gotten three times as long.
Mandatory minimums have also been found to exacerbate racial inequalities in the justice system. African Americans are much more likely than Caucasians to be charged with crimes that carry mandatory minimums, and African Americans are also more likely to be sentenced to serve a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment.
Modifications to this system are strongly supported by the ABA, which has long been on record opposing mandatory minimums but which passed the new resolution of opposition as congress considers bills that would impose new mandatory minimums for more offenses.
Unfortunately, despite widespread support for criminal justice reform that would include eliminating or curtailing the use of mandatory minimums, it is unlikely that mandatory minimums will be curtailed any time soon and they may even be expanded.
Schenectady criminal defense attorneys can provide representation to those defendants accused of crimes that carry mandatory minimum sentences, so you should contact an attorney as soon as possible if you are facing charges.