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Perlet & Shiner, P.A. West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer
  • WEST PALM BEACH CRIMINAL DEFENSE

What Are Mandatory Minimum Sentences?

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In late October 2021, Florida Rep. Anna V. Eskamani refiled legislation designed to eliminate mandatory minimum (MM) sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. Eskamani has tried several times to mount similar legislation, citing multiple studies that show mandatory minimum sentences are not nearly the deterrent that lawmakers had originally believed them to be. While it remains to be seen whether her bill will become law, it is important to keep in mind that if you are convicted of a drug offense now, you run the risk of facing a mandatory minimum sentence.

A Product Of Another Time

Mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders became popular and relevant in the 1980s, seen as a possible method of restricting drug use during Ronald Reagan’s so-called “war on drugs.” 1984’s Sentencing Reform Act created mandatory minimum sentences, intended to act as a deliberately harsh deterrent. Florida’s MMs for drug crimes began to appear in the late 1980s, after South American cartels had been causing trouble in the state for years.

That said, studies over time have shown that mandatory minimum sentences do not have any real effect on drug use or recidivism. An article in the University of Indiana Law Review cites statistics showing that Florida actually experienced a significant spike in crime in the years immediately following the enacting of mandatory minimums. In addition, statistics tallied by the University of Michigan Law School estimate that mandatory minimums are used against a disproportionate number of defendants of color – almost two-thirds of the cases where MMs are used had non-white defendants.

What Are My Options?

As of this writing, Florida judges’ hands are tied in terms of how to sentence defendants who are found guilty. If a State’s Attorney chooses to seek a mandatory minimum sentence, and the defendant is found guilty, they must be given the sentence stated in the law. For drug defendants accused of crimes with MMs, the best option is to do one’s best to try and avoid specific charges that have MMs as potential punishments.

It is important to keep in mind that while many Florida State’s Attorneys are reluctant to negotiate or plea-bargain down to a lesser charge, this is one of several potential options a defendant can try to use in their own defense. An experienced attorney knows the limits for how much of a controlled substance will potentially trigger a mandatory minimum sentence, and will fight hard to make sure you have your chance to tell your side of the story in court.

Contact A Palm Beach Drug Offenses Attorney

While there has been recent discussion about altering mandatory minimum sentences, currently they remain on the books, at least in Florida, for most drug crimes. If you have questions or concerns about drug charges and potential sentences, calling a Palm Beach drug crimes attorney from the firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. can help to get them managed. Contact our offices today to speak to an attorney.

Resource:

myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Bills/billsdetail.aspx?BillId=73093

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