Mandatory minimum sentences have been widely criticized by the media in Florida and throughout the United States, particularly as the adoption of marijuana legalization and a softening approach to drug enforcement has increasingly become a topic of serious conversation. In fact, many activists view criminal justice reform as fundamentally linked to mandatory minimums.
If you’ve been charged with a crime in Florida, then — depending on the nature of the criminal offense — you may qualify for a mandatory minimum sentence in the event that you are found guilty.
Let’s take a look at the basics.
How Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Works
In Florida and elsewhere, if you’ve been convicted of a crime, then — normally — your sentence can be reduced based on a variety of factors, such as whether you have committed a prior offense, and the severity of the harm caused to the victim (if there is a victim). Some crimes come attached with mandatory minimum sentences, however. If you are subject to a mandatory minimum sentence, then the judge may not use their discretion to reduce your sentence — instead, the judge may only use their discretion to increase the sentence.
Mandatory minimums were implemented with the intention of strengthening discouraging certain highly-victimizing or damaging crimes. Categorically speaking, this tends to cover drug trafficking and other felony drug crimes, felony sex crimes, and felony gun crimes. For example, if you are found to have trafficked drugs while possessing a firearm, then you will be subjected to a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.
Options for Avoiding a Significant Mandatory Minimum Sentence
Though mandatory minimums can make your impending criminal litigation seem even more frightening than it likely already is, there is still hope — criminal defendants have a number of strategic options. If you’ve been charged with a crime that has a mandatory minimum sentence, you can either:
- Successfully fight the case and thereby avoid criminal liability altogether;
- Have the criminal offense downgraded to a lower offense that does not have an attached mandatory minimum sentence;
- Negotiate a plea bargain (that involves the dismissal of charges that have attached mandatory minimum sentences); or
- Secure an exception to the mandatory minimum as a youthful offender who meets certain other qualifications.
Generally speaking, if you’ve been charged with a crime that has a mandatory minimum associated with it, then the first order of business is investigating the facts, gathering all relevant evidence in support of your arguments, identifying helpful witnesses, and developing an overall airtight defense. With a solid defense, you can hopefully secure a win during litigation, or have enough negotiation leverage to secure a favorable plea bargain.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the state of Florida, or are currently being investigated for a crime, then it’s absolutely critical that you get in touch with a qualified criminal defense attorney for assistance. Failure in criminal litigation can have lifelong consequences — particularly in situations where there is a mandatory minimum sentence attached to the offense. The sooner you consult an attorney, the more prepared you will be at trial.