What is a mandatory minimum?

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Anyone facing indictment for a crime could be looking at a jail sentence. An unfavorable ruling might be calamitous. Should a mandatory minimum apply, the presiding judge must impose a requisite punishment.

Learning about mandatory minimums can help prisoners understand the reason for their verdict. The following explains why they exist and the reasons for repealing them.

Explaining mandatory minimums

Mandatory minimums are laws that tie the hands of courts when handing down sentences. Their popularity comes from the belief that lengthy incarceration works as a deterrent. Although history shows this is not the case, judges still must follow the rules. Particular crimes have specific prison terms. Rising crime in the 1970s is the catalyst responsible for the desire to be tough on perpetrators.

Repealing mandatory minimums

There are many reasons for wanting to end these laws. One is they negatively affect people of color greater than those who are caucasian.

Another rationale is they do not lower the recidivism rate. Addicts, for instance, are usually still addicts after their release. Offenders with drug problems need a defender to argue for treatment over imprisonment. Mandatory minimums make it impossible for judges to take this into account.

Mandatory minimums corrode the system. Judges experience frustration that may cause them to retire. Prisons are more likely to suffer overcrowding. The cost of operating them increases, thus further burdening taxpayers.

There are substantive arguments for why mandatory minimums should disappear forever. In the meantime, the accused must accept that a guilty finding might mean they are subject to one of these laws.