Mandatory Minimum


Bifurcated Trials
Gravy Train
Mandatory Minimum
Medical Neglect
My Story
Prisoner Poisioning
Proposition 66
Saville Acquitted
A Forgotten Man
Anslinger's Lies
Behind Bars

    Mandatory minimums are a new twist that has developed in the courtrooms of today. Essentially mandatory minimums are a set of instructions that judges must follow in the sentencing of people for a wide variety of crimes. These instructions specifically state that a predetermined amount of jail or prison time must be given to a person by a judge when a jury returns a verdict of guilty.  These instructions are encoded in the law itself and therefore cannot be deviated from. The judge is not given the opportunity to respond to mitigating factors that may have caused the crime to occur in the first place. The judge is not given the opportunity to react with compassion, which in effect ties the hands of the judge and eliminates the need for him to be there altogether. After all - with mandatory minimums what purpose does the judge serve except to preside over the hearing? The judge isn't even needed to maintain order in the courtroom because that function is already performed by the bailiff. With the existence of mandatory minimums it would not surprise me if criminal trials in the future are performed without a judge. The reason why I say this is because with mandatory minimums justice is dispatched summarily without due process of law and who needs to pay for a judge to be there when he doesn't really do anything.

    There is one problem with mandatory minimums and that problem comes in the form of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution states that ALL United States citizens are entitled to due process of law. Due process of law is a rather ambiguous term and therefore very difficult to define. What it means is that all aspects of a trial are supposed to be conducted fairly and impartially. It also means that the judge is supposed to be able to examine the circumstances of a given situation and in the event of a guilty verdict, the judge is supposed to be able to review everything that has been revealed in the trial and give a sentence that reflects the best interests of all of the parties concerned and society in general. No judge in the United States is capable of doing this today with the existence of mandatory minimums because the instructions that have become a part of the law prevent him from doing this.

    Allow me to illustrate how mandatory minimums prevent due process of law with a case that was revealed to me by an attorney. Let's take the case of the woman who suffered from depression. This woman attempted suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning with her two children in the car. Consequently she is charged with dangerous crimes against children. If the jury returns a verdict of guilty because they believe that this is the only way they can guarantee she will get psychiatric counseling, the judge has no recourse but to sentence the woman to 30 years in prison because the law is written with mandatory minimums. Consequently her depression is irrelevant and she would be better off with a plea of insanity. At least with a plea of insanity she would get the psychiatric counseling that she needed and may one day walkout of a mental institution sooner than she would from prison. At least in this way she gets to address her problem and get her children and her life back. Unfortunately with mandatory minimums this will never happen. This is but one example of the seemingly endless possibilities regarding situations that cause crimes to be committed and people to appear in a courtroom. I could invent others, but I think this one serves as the best explanation as to why mandatory minimums do not create justice or due process of law in a courtroom.

    Mandatory minimums were created by a group of people who felt that the sentences given by judges in courtrooms 30 or 40 years ago were too light. So they rewrote the law and took the judge's power away from them. The creation of mandatory minimums comes from a position that reflects a lack of faith in the laws and legal system of our country if not the Constitution itself. Instead what these people should have done was preserve the law as it was and vote those judges out of office. Had they preserved the law as it was, judges would have the latitude to tailor their sentences to fit the circumstances and the crime. In this way justice would truly be preserved. Now it is not! The mentality behind mandatory minimums is the same kind of mentality that believes it is possible to legislate safety by passing more laws. All this does is lead to the passing of even more laws when it is believed that the first set of laws didn't work. This is exactly what has happened to the U.S. legal system in the last 30 to 40 years. This situation has grown to the point where it is now possible to be arrested for crimes that few people are aware of or would believe are a crime. Most people operate under the misconception that it is not possible to commit a crime unless a person has been directly harmed in some way by another person. Today this is simply not the case, because it is now possible for a person to commit a felony sitting in his home, having no direct contact with anyone. To some, mandatory minimums may at first glance seem like a good thing. Just let mandatory minimums directly affect your life and you wont be thinking that way for long.



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