Many people have heard the expression “don’t make a federal case out of it”. But fewer are aware of why, exactly, federal cases are so much more consequential than cases in state court. Federal sentencing guidelines impose mandatory minimum sentence lengths on many different federal crimes. This makes it even more important for defendants in the federal court system to protect their legal rights during the investigation, charging, and prosecution of federal offenses. An experienced Georgia criminal defense attorney can help federal defendants protect their constitutional rights and promote fairness throughout the criminal case process.
What Are Mandatory Minimums?
For certain federal offenses, the law provides a minimum sentence which must be imposed upon conviction of the crime. This is known as a mandatory minimum. Mandatory minimums almost always result in longer prison sentences than those sentences imposed for other offenses. The United States Sentencing Commission reports that the average sentence length for federal defendants was only 28 months when the crime was not subject to a mandatory minimum, but 110 months when it was.
In addition to resulting in longer sentences, mandatory minimums also take away from a judge’s discretion in sentencing. Rather than crafting a fair sentence based upon the facts and circumstances of each individual case, federal judges are bound to a “one size fits all” sentence mandated by sentencing authorities with no knowledge of the case.
Mandatory minimums have been in the news recently due to the actions of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. According to the Washington Post, Sessions has been attempting to block bipartisan legislation that would reduce some of the harsh consequences of mandatory minimum sentencing. The bill would reduce mandatory minimums for repeat, nonviolent drug offenses; eliminate the “three strike rule” (which requires life sentences for defendants who are convicted of three eligible crimes); and give judges expanded authority to issue sentences below the mandatory minimum in certain cases. These changes are at odds with Sessions’ brazen “war on drugs” being fought with harsh policies within the Justice Department. Sessions claims that the changes would be a “grave error”.
What an Attorney Can Do to Mitigate the Harsh Effects of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing
There are many ways in which a defense attorney can protect defendants from the harsh effects of mandatory minimum sentencing. First, it is important to hold investigators accountable for following proper police procedure. Evidence which is obtained illegally must be suppressed from a jury. Other procedural defects in the investigation or prosecution of the case (such as failure to give the required notice, or failure to disclose evidence to the defense) can also result in suppression of evidence which can preclude an unfair conviction.
A defense attorney can also help negotiate reduced charges with a prosecutor in exchange for the defendant’s guilty plea. In certain cases, a prosecutor may be willing to allow a defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge which is not subject to a mandatory minimum. This may require a stipulated prison sentence, but it can still be less than the mandatory minimum faced by a defendant who is found guilty at trial. Plea negotiations allow a defense attorney more room and creativity in the charging, conviction, and sentencing of a crime. Such creativity can help defendants avoid the effects of a mandatory minimum sentence.
A Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Can Protect Your Legal Rights
Attorney Stidham has experience in defending all types of federal charges. This experience can help defendants mitigate the consequences of federal criminal charges, and also protect defendant’s constitutional rights throughout the entire case process. Call 678-889-7953 today to schedule your free consultation.