American prisons have a serious overpopulation problem. The worst part? 55.4% of those offenders are incarcerated on nonviolent charges, 46.4% of which are drug charges. Why, in the land of the free, are so many nonviolent offenders facing hard time? Mandatory minimum sentencing.
What began as an attempt to lower crime rates through harsher punishments has instead resulted in massively overcrowded prisons and repeat offenders clogging up the system year in and year out, leaving defense attorneys and their clients facing a challenging battle.
Mandatory Minimum Sentencing
Mandatory minimum sentencing sets specific guidelines in assigning jail time for various offenses, including drug possession and DWI. In theory, mandatory minimums send a clear message to criminals, and are a fair way to ensure equal punishment for equal offenses. It appeals to common beliefs that our legal system is black and white, and that those who do the crime should then do the time.
Unfortunately, the guidelines fail to consider all the facts surrounding each case. Every person who enters into the judicial system has a unique set of circumstances and an individual story. Automatically handing down the same sentence to every one convicted of a specific crime isn’t just unfair; it’s a lazy perversion of the justice system that benefits the prosecutors and just about no one else.
For example, possession of anywhere between four ounces and five POUNDS of marijuana carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 days in prison. Depending on the prosecutor’s decision, this could mean that an individual with slightly over four ounces of marijuana to help them get through their cancer treatment could receive the exact same sentence as a supplier with five full pounds in their trunk. In this case, the mandatory minimum prevents the lesser offenders from just receiving probation, and demands that they be incarcerated. The defendant’s age, their criminal history, history with rehab, or any other surrounding circumstances are left out of sentencing entirely. That’s insane!
The result is an increasing prison population that tax payers have to support, all with no real decrease in crime or incarceration.
Fighting Tirelessly to Defy the Odds
Between mandatory minimums and harsh prosecutors, it can really start to feel like the deck is stacked against you. As a team of top-tier criminal defense attorneys, we tirelessly analyze your case, and work with prosecutors to ensure that you receive the fairest possible treatment and level-headed charges that make the most sense. At Thiessen Law Firm, we fight hard to ensure that our clients are given the fair treatment they deserve under the law.
Schedule a free consultation with Thiessen Law Firm to discuss your options and defense approach in your upcoming court appearance.