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Mandatory minimum sentences: long, hard injustices?

The stories of overzealous laws and prosecutors pop up a bit more frequently these days in news outlets here in Kentucky and across the nation. The articles detail the too-frequent injustices of mandatory minimum sentences imposed on people convicted of nonviolent federal drug crimes.

Attorney General Eric Holder has been pushing the Justice Department to seek fewer mandatory minimums as part of his “Smart on Crime” initiative, but only Congress can change the laws that sometimes require federal judges to impose unduly harsh sentences on people who made mistakes but were not violent and were not habitual criminals.

Holder has been urging federal prosecutors to sometimes turn cases over to state and local prosecutors, the Washington Post reports. In that way, the federal government’s mandatory minimums — too often too harsh — can be avoided and a reasonable sentence can be imposed. Most people would agree that the punishment should fit the crime; not that there should be a one-size-fits-all harsh punishment applied to every violation of drug laws.

Advocates of mandatory minimums argue that the sentencing guidelines enable prosecutors to wring cooperation from defendants seeking plea deals. Attorney General Holder counters that “clear and objective facts” obtained in detailed research shows that the level of defendant cooperation is consistent whether mandatory minimums are available to prosecutors or not.

Those facing the possibility of a federal mandatory minimums understand that while good people are working to undo harsh sentencing guidelines, right now they need the help of an attorney experienced in federal defense. That’s what matters most today to Don Thomas, Attorney At Law: defending clients with all available legal tools.

Please see our Federal Criminal Law page for more information about how we can help you.