What Are Mandatory Minimum Sentences?

If you’re convicted of a crime in California, you will face various penalties as outlined in the law in California. Depending on the circumstances, there could be a certain level of leeway, but California’s mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines could significantly impact your case.

The guidelines stipulate that no matter the circumstances of your crime, you must serve a certain amount of jail time or be subject to a specific penalty, even if you’re a first-time offender. The law doesn’t allow judges to decrease the punishment even for extenuating circumstances. However, an attorney from a criminal litigation law firm in Los Angeles can provide legal support for the case.

What is the Rationale for Mandatory Minimum Sentencing?

Mandatory sentences serve two primary goals: incapacitation and deterrence. For example, imposing three years for armed robbery serves a specific deterrence purpose that applies to already sanctioned offenders. It also serves the purpose of general deterrence to prospective offenders.

If courts successfully increase the imprisonment rate, the effects of incapacitation will grow because fewer offenders will be free to perpetrate their criminal activities. Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys explain that through minimum mandatory sentences, legislators convey that some crimes are grave and people who commit them should expect harsh sanctions.

What is the Impact of Mandatory Sentencing Laws?

Minimum mandatory sentencing requirements have had several adverse impacts. While the laws were expected to help reduce crime rates, the opposite was the outcome. People sentenced to minimums were often re-arrested within three years of release. Much of taxpayers’ money would be spent on keeping people in prison, taking up resources, and creating a cycle of imprisonment.

Mandatory minimums have also created a substantial caseload for judges, limiting their ability to devote adequate time and resources to each case. The burden can result in delays in the judicial process, ultimately compromising the quality of justice delivered.

Limitations on Judicial Discretion

Mandatory minimums also limit the power of judges, preventing them from imposing lesser penalties such as probation. The criminal justice system should aim at rehabilitating offenders, but minimum mandatory sentences take this opportunity away.

Judges should have the discretion to determine offenders who can benefit from mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, or other rehabilitative programs. Besides, without the mandatory sentences, aggressive Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys can fight to have you enrolled in a rehabilitation program instead of incarceration.

Impact on Defendants and Their Families

Mandatory minimum sentences can profoundly affect defendants and their families. Extended prison times can disrupt lives and keep offenders separated from their loved ones. Incarceration also hinders their ability to work or pursue rehabilitation.

Families and dependents of incarcerated convicts may also suffer financial, emotional, and social consequences of minimum sentences. The strain of having a loved one imprisoned for a long time can create a mental and emotional toll. Experienced criminal defense lawyers in Los Angeles can help you or your loved one navigate the complexities of mandatory minimums.

Does California Use Mandatory Minimum Sentences?

California began imposing mandatory minimum sentences in the 1980s, but the aim was to punish non-violent drug offenses. Unfortunately, the requirements only led to mass and frequent incarcerations, devastating the criminal justice system and violating the rights of offenders.

The state has recently made massive changes regarding mandatory minimum sentences based on the recommendations of the Committee on Revision of the Penal Code. As of January 2021, California stopped using mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for non-violent drug crimes. Judges can now reconsider the punishments for those convicted of a crime and have already spent 15 years in prison.

What Does the End of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Mean?

The end of the mandatory minimum sentencing means that low-level and non-violent drug offenders can be rehabilitated better with alternatives like probation and treatment. Currently, all non-violent drug offenses that result in a minimum of 15 years in prison can undergo judicial review.

Some of the crimes addressed in the new law include:

  • Gun crimes
  • Fraud and other economic offenses
  • Possessing illegal drugs
  • Forging prescriptions
  • Manufacturing illicit drugs
  • Trafficking cannabis or opiates

With the new changes, first-time offenders are not eligible for probation sentencing. Judges are also prohibited from sentencing non-violent second-time drug possession offenders to probation. Instead, judges have the discretion to send the offenders to rehabilitative programs instead of sending them to prison based on the mandatory minimums.

How Does Sentencing Work in California?

Generally, judges decide a defendant’s punishment after the defendant takes a guilty plea or is found guilty at trial. Judges adhere to legal guidelines that help them choose a sentence that best matches the offense, which should be proportional to the crime. Courts can also determine penalties through a negotiated agreement with the prosecutors on the case, known as a plea agreement.

Various factors that may affect sentencing are:

  • Whether you hurt someone or actively tried to avoid inflicting bodily injury
  • Your mental state at the time the crime happened
  • Whether you were the principal offender or an accessory in perpetrating the crime

Lawyers from a criminal litigation law firm in Los Angeles can provide effective legal representation and fight for the most favorable outcome. Possible outcomes are case dismissal or reduction of the penalties.

An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Fighting to Protect Your Rights in California

Navigating the sentencing guidelines in California requires the expertise of Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys. They understand the intricacies of sentencing laws in California and can develop effective defense strategies to protect you from the harsh penalties. They can explore mitigating factors that may warrant reduced charges or penalties.

We can advocate alternative sentencing options at Miranda Rights Law Firm, such as rehabilitation. Such would prevent you from being sent to prison while addressing the underlying cause of the criminal behavior. We focus on fighting for the best possible outcome for our client’s cases. Call us at 213-293-1207 to schedule a FREE case evaluation.