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What are federal mandatory minimums?

On Behalf of | Jun 3, 2021 | Criminal defense

Mandatory minimums have received a lot of attention in recent years, with many people questioning their fairness. Regardless of public opinion, these required sentences are still very much a reality for people facing many kinds of federal charges.

Here is what everyone should know about mandatory minimum sentences.

What are mandatory minimums?

In the 1970s, 1980s and beyond, Congress passed laws that require minimum prison sentences for certain kinds of federal crimes, primarily drug offenses. The main goal of these laws was to discourage illegal drug activity.

Five and 10-year terms are commonly used minimums for drug crimes. Other types of offenses that carry required prison terms include a variety of economic and gun charges.

Do judges have any leeway?

Typically, judges will consider many factors when sentencing and make case-by-case judgments about the appropriate penalties. Judges will often look at the things such as the defendants’ likelihood to commit future offenses or any actions they have taken to better their lives since their arrest.

However, mandatory minimums take any control away from judges. Even if a case has mitigating circumstances, the defendant will still face prison time if convicted of a federal crime that carries a required sentence.

Though Congress has passed some laws in recent years to eliminate certain mandatory minimums, the majority are still in place. After an arrest for this kind of crime, there are few ways to avoid prison time after a conviction, but a solid legal case may help a defendant avoid a negative outcome.