I don’t really understand minimum sentences. It seems incredibly counter intuitive to me. Reminds me of a line from “As Good As It Gets”. A hysterical Jack Nicholson movie where, as a writer, he is asked how he can write women so well.
When I ask people if they are in favor of mandatory minimum sentencing they always say ‘yes’. When I ask them what mandatory minimum sentencing is, they say, basically, if you are charged with a crime, and you are found ‘guilty’, then you serve AT LEAST the minimum mandatory sentence in prison. Right?
And they are literally SHOCKED to find out… that isn’t how it works.
But that’s what they thought they were voting for!!
So my comparison is –
How can you penalize innocently accused people most effectively?
Create laws where if you refuse to plea out, the judge and jury are stripped of all ability to apply common sense and humanity.
I’ll tell you what I’ve learned about mandatory minimum sentencing…
The REAL criminals all plead out, taking SIGNIFICANTLY LESS PRISON TIME than the mandatory minimum you THOUGHT they would get!
Those who are actually innocent, and refuse to take a deal for something they didn’t do – THEY are the ones who, if unbelievably actually found guilty, are forced to serve what you voted for.
The hardened criminals are out in half the time you THOUGHT you were giving them, back on the streets to play the game all over again.
The first offenders, no criminal history, possibly wrong place wrong time, or police / prosecutor overreach victims, are locked away with no room for understanding or compassion.
The decision is literally taken from the judge and given to the prosecutors.
I just read a story about a man who fired a warning shot from his own gun in his own home, in defense of his family. He ended up being charged with and convicted of ‘firing a weapon in a building’ and ‘child endangerment’, as the person threatening the family was a minor. He is serving a mandatory 20 year sentence.
The judges hands were tied.
Is that what you wanted when you voted for MANDATORY MINIMUM SENTENCING?
One thought on “Minimum Sentencing”
I understand what you are saying, that Plea deal sentences, which are largely taken by guilty parties, (although some innocent people do take them under the advice of their counselors, as these cases are very hard and expensive to beat at trial and odds are against them), tend to be less than sentences given to people who won’t take the plea deal and go to court to prove their innocence. In the event of a loss at court these people face harsher sentencing. Plea deal offers can start anywhere around 1.5 years, whereas regular sentencing on these cases start at 6 years, they also offer deals on probation and Registry, which make it very tempting. So minimum sentencing, which is supposed to mean something concrete, loses its significance and fails to have any real meaning when it becomes a moving target depending on how the states prosecutor wields it.