The Price of Mandatory Minimum Sentences
Like many states, Florida has mandatory minimum sentences attached to many criminal charges. Created as a way to deter crime, the result has had a number of unintended consequences.
Crimes that Come with Mandatory Sentences
Certain crimes do have mandatory sentences attached to them, including:
- Capital crimes;
- Crimes in which a firearm was used during the commission of a felony;
- Crimes committed by habitual offenders;
- Drug trafficking crimes;
- Crimes against officers that were violent;
- The taking of a weapon from a law enforcement officer;
- The possession or use of machine guns and/or semiautomatic weapons.
Types of Mandatory Sentences
There are essentially three ways that mandatory sentences can be handed out, all related to gaintime, or the ability for the offender to earn early release or control release:
- The inability to earn early release credits, gaintime, or controlled release until the mandatory serve time has been fulfilled;
- The ability to earn early release credits, gaintime, or controlled release, but the inability to use such credits until after the mandatory minimum sentence has been fulfilled;
- The ability to both earn and use early release credits, gaintime, or controlled release.
Impacts of Mandatory Minimum Sentences
How has instituting mandatory minimum sentences played out in the sunshine state? The tough-on-crime legislation has had a number of negative impacts. Like elsewhere across the nation, it means that judges are deprived of the ability to examine a particular case and determine sentencing based on the circumstances of that case. Essentially, it dehumanized people accused of criminal activity, opting instead for a one-size-fits-all solution to complicated criminal justice questions. Beyond that, the repercussions have been concerning:
- Prosecutors are able to use mandatory sentences as a bludgeon to get guilty pleas and shorter sentences, even when individuals are not really guilty of the crime.
- Taxpayer funded prisons are used up incarcerating people for longer periods of time instead of on rehabilitative and work programs or other public safety needs;
- Prison populations are bursting at the seams;
- People of color are disproportionately imprisoned for longer sentences, to the tune of 65 percent.
Benefits of Mandatory Minimums?
So have the many consequences of mandatory minimum sentencing been balanced out by wonderful benefits? Absolutely not! Not only have such sentences NOT contributed to a reduction in crime; the opposite may actually be the case. One study concluded that crowded prisons increase violent crime rates by almost one-third. Here in Florida, there was a 50 percent jump in criminal activity following the enactment of mandatory minimums.
The Defense You Deserve
The experienced Miami DUI defense attorneys at the Law Office of Julia Kefalinos understand how stressful a criminal charge can be, and fight for the best possible outcomes for every single client. To discuss your situation, schedule a confidential consultation in our Miami office today.