One of the most frequently discussed topics in the criminal justice reform debate is mandatory minimum sentencing. Initially, state and federal legislators developed these laws to create sentencing uniformity. However, the outcome of these mandatory sentences has been anything but uniform, especially when viewed along social, economic, and racial lines. While the sentencing debate rages on, you may have questions about what mandatory minimums mean for you. To that end, here's what you need to know if you are facing a mandatory minimum sentence in California right now.
Mandatory Minimum Sentence Defined
A mandatory minimum sentence is a term of imprisonment set by state or federal legislators for certain offenses. If a charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence, the judge must impose a threshold amount of jail time for the crime regardless of the circumstances.
On the federal level, criminal charges with mandatory minimums carry 5-, 10- or 20-year mandatory minimum sentences depending on the circumstances. These charges include but are not limited to the distribution of drugs, the use of firearms, and any crime that results in serious bodily injury or death.
Federal law adds a 10-year enhancement for committing any offense with a 5-year mandatory minimum after a prior conviction for a drug crime and a 20-year enhancement for committing any offense with a 10-year mandatory minimum after a previous conviction for a drug crime. There is also a 20-year enhancement for any distribution offense that results in severe injury or death.
When people refer to mandatory minimum sentences in California, they usually refer to the state’s “three-strikes” law. Under the law, any person convicted of 3 violent or serious felonies will receive a prison sentence of 25 years to life. The law also doubles the prison time for any person convicted of any California felony with one prior violent felony conviction. Like its federal counterpart, the state's three-strikes law applies to severe offenses such as drug distribution, murder, rape, arson, kidnapping, and robbery.
The Sigal Law Group has a reputation for successfully defending clients against criminal charges throughout the Los Angeles area. If you face a mandatory minimum sentence, call us at (818) 325-0570 to schedule a free consultation in your case today.