Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the U.S. Congress and other state legislatures passed a set of laws that forced judges to penalize specific crimes, often related to drugs and sex, with fixed prison terms to those convicted. At that time, lawmakers believed these inflexible sentences would deter others from committing these crimes, particularly drug-related crimes. However, since its very beginning, mandatory minimum sentencing laws were pinpointed as racial- and income-biased. Today, it’s said that mandatory minimum sentencing costs the federal government over $50 billion, and it costs states like Florida around $100 million annually to maintain incarceration rates. Let’s take a closer look at the ins and outs of mandatory minimum sentencing laws and what they can mean for your future if you or someone you know is ever convicted with a crime carrying such laws.
Who Sets Them?
Mandatory minimum sentencing laws are set both at the state and federal level. The state of Florida, for example, has its set of mandatory minimum sentences that judges are required to impose. The federal government sets them as well; these may or may not differ from the state level ones. The sentencing you face depends on which court system you’re tried in. Under Florida law, mandatory minimum sentences are outlined by the state legislature in chapter 755 of the Florida Statutes. At the federal level, the United States Sentencing Commission, which falls under the judicial branch, is the agency responsible for creating and periodically reviewing these laws.
Crimes with Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws
Most mandatory minimum sentencing laws fall under three main classifications: drug crimes, sex crimes, and gun crimes. At the federal level, identity theft crimes are also included in the classification. Now, this doesn’t mean all crimes under these categories will have a mandatory minimum sentence. There are specific crimes under these categories that do meet the outline.
Florida law applies minimum sentencing laws to drug trafficking charges, which occur when someone possesses over a certain amount. The minimum sentencing associated with these charges will depend on the type and quantity of drugs found. Conviction for such charges carry a prison sentence between 3 to 25 years according to Florida’s mandatory minimum laws.
The one sex crime that carries a minimum sentencing is a serious offense. Any adult over age 18 who commits lewd or lascivious molestation of a child under age 12 will face life in prison and a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence followed by sex offender probation or community control for life.
Gun crimes are broader, and will trigger minimum mandatory sentencing laws. Having a gun while attempting or committing robbery, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, or aggravated assault and battery with a firearm, will all trigger minimum mandatory sentences ranging from 3 to 25 years in state prison depending on the crime.
Examples of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing
Mandatory minimum sentencing will depend on the type of crime and the type of offender. First-time offenders will most likely receive less severe sentences, in comparison to repeat offenders. Here are some mandatory minimum sentences based on Florida’s laws.
- Aggravated assault with a firearm: 3 years.
- Felon in possession of a firearm: 3 years.
- Armed carjacking: 10 years.
- Heroin, cocaine, or oxycodone possession (less than 14 grams): 3 years.
- Heroin, cocaine, or oxycodone possession (over 14 grams): 15 years.
Those are examples of mandatory sentences for first time offenders. Let’s take a look now at sentences for repeat offenders.
- Repeat second-degree misdemeanor: 60 days.
- Repeat first-degree misdemeanor: 1 year.
- Repeat second-degree felony: 15 years.
- Repeat first-degree felony: 30 years.
- Repeat murder or homicide: Life imprisonment.
Can Lawyers Do Something?
Many defense lawyers will tell you mandatory minimum sentences are unfair. They’re right. First of all, such sentences don’t take into consideration the mitigating circumstances and they remove the judge’s ability to determine the proper sentence for a particular case. Unfortunately, judges don’t have the power to overrule mandatory sentences. When facing charges that carry a mandatory minimum sentencing, it’s easy to believe hiring a lawyer is unnecessary. On the contrary, when facing such charges, having an experienced lawyer that understands the mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines is paramount.
At LJ Law Group, our attorneys are committed to providing our clients with the most aggressive defense and responsible legal counsel. Unlike other law firms, we will never feed you or your family with false hope or make promises we cannot keep. Rather, our mission is to help you navigate the legal system and fight to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, don’t wait until it’s too late, schedule your private and complimentary case evaluation to speak with our criminal defense lawyers.