FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida. According to FAMM, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, when individuals face charges in the Federal Court System, federal judges may be required to use mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines when determining how long someone will spend in jail. These “mandatory minimums” are set for certain drug crimes, but they also include certain gun offenses and economic crimes. While the laws were designed to make it easier to put gang leaders and drug kingpins in jail, the law has also been used to throw low-level offenders in jail for extended periods of time.
Mandatory minimum sentencing was designed to be a deterrent. The effect it has had in practice is to send people to jail for long periods of time for crimes that wouldn’t seem to warrant the time. Mandatory minimums take away judicial discretion when sentencing individuals to time in jail. Under the current system judges cannot take into account other mitigating factors in a person’s life, like whether the person has children, or was struggling in some way when they committed the crime.
A new documentary, called The Sentence, explores the impact that mandatory minimums had on one family. Vanity Fair reports on the story, explaining how one mother was charged with conspiracy and faced 15 years in jail, just for knowing that her boyfriend was dealing and selling drugs. What’s so devastating about the story is that the mother was charged with the crime years after it had taken place. By the time the federal officers arrest her, she is married with young children. Even though the mother wasn’t selling the drugs herself, she was implicated in the crime. She won’t deny that she is guilty in knowing her boyfriend was selling drugs. But when it comes to understanding the sentence, her family struggles. The documentary reveals the challenges her children face in her absence.
Mandatory minimums have been called harsh and inhumane by even prosecutors, according to the Washington Post. A person with two prior convictions found in possession of certain drugs could face 20 years to life—even if the person didn’t have the intention to sell the drugs. These required sentences break up families, devastate communities, and disproportionately impact minorities.
Facing a federal drug charge can be terrifying. Not only might your freedom and future be on the line, but you could potentially be facing a devastating mandatory minimum sentencing.
Michael D. Weinstein, P.A. is a Fort Lauderdale, Florida criminal defense lawyer who helps individuals facing drug crime charges. If you or a loved one is facing serious charges, a qualified lawyer can review the evidence gathered against you and help you fight for your freedom. The consequences of conviction can be high. Not only might you face jail time, but you can also experience collateral consequences as a result of having a criminal record. If you are facing drug charges, visit us at mdwlawfirm.com to learn more about your options under the law.
Michael D. Weinstein, P.A.
12 Southeast 7th Street, Suite 713
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301