Several significant issues of proportionality and equity remain despite the passage of these laws. This is the case because the criteria and conditions under which most prosecutors in American courts agree not to look for penalties that are harsh are in most cases unirreviewable and are capable of producing economically or racially disparate outcomes. In addition, the American judiciary’s role has relatively become weaker while the role of the prosecutors has greatly increased. The decisions of the prosecutors concerning charging offenders largely determine the extent to which the courts will apply the mandatory minimum sentencing.
As a result, in most jurisdictions across the United States, judges are locked out in negotiations of guilty plea. The judiciary thus has less influence when it comes to charging criminals whose cases have gone through such negotiations (Mackenzie, 2005). When any defendant is brought before an American court and is charged with a crime that attracts mandatory minimum sentencing, the judge’s role is mostly restricted to either presiding over the particular trial or acknowledging the guilty plea, and following conviction, the judge is further limited to only prescribing the stipulated sentence.
Under this form of system, the charging decision of a prosecutor is largely used in determining the sentence the defendant will serve. The mandatory minimum sentencing have therefore the effect of transferring more judicial powers to the prosecutors while at the same time reducing the powers of the judges. These effects create some loopholes which can be used by prosecutors in making the judges issue the wrong rulings and thus affect the fairness and equity of the country’s judicial system (Messner & Rosenfeld, 2001).
Another means through which effects and impacts of mandatory minimum sentencing can be conceptualized is through procedures of the American courts. This can effectively be done by imagining the timing of the major and significant decisions shifting; they are usually shifted from the time of sentencing and convictions to earlier stages in the processing of cases. In most cases, the police and other law enforcers are usually basically interested in certain short prison terms and convictions for drug dealers of lower level.
This has had significant effects on the disrupting effectively the open air markets of drugs which has been greatly targeted by these minimum mandatory sentences. In such cases, the police officers are less willing to endure the tough paperwork as well as the trial testimonies that are required in achieving the mandatory punishments. Therefore, the police officers are more willing to deal with cases whose probable convictions include short term imprisonments, thus shying away from cases involving a lot of commitments (Brinkley, 2003).
Under such conditions, the police officers normally prefer booking suspects for the crimes which are less likely to attract mandatory sentences, like possessing drugs in small amounts. As a result, prosecutors are more likely to concur with various diversion programs and in some instances, dismissing cases out rightly. Such is mostly likely to take place, when according to the prosecutor’s or police officer’s judgment, the defendants being accused are not as risky as the impending incapacitative sentence.
The most crucial procedural stage in respect to quantity of cases affected, as well as the likely impact on the sentencing results, is the plea negotiations and also the decision of the defendant to plead guilty before a court of law. Very few defendants will under normal circumstances accept to plead guilty especially to charges that are carrying mandatory minimum sentences. Instead, such defendants will opt to face the trial applying the assumption that after all they have nothing at all to lose should they be found guilty after the trial.
In fact, they stand to gain significantly should the court eventually declare that they are innocent and thus release them without having served any sentence (Samaha, 2005). In virtually all jurisdictions in the country, the rates of trials increased dramatically following the introduction of mandatory minimum sentencing. Most of the defendants became more reluctant to plead guilty before courts of law which would automatically make them serve long sentences in correctional facilities.
However, in majority of the scenarios, mandatory minimum sentencing has affected the judicial requirements most of which are inclined towards plea negotiations. Most of the factors that are responsible for triggering mandatory minimum sentencing include the use of guns, being convicted for a felony crime for the third time and possessing or selling drugs in great amounts. Such offences have to be proven beyond reasonable doubt for mandatory minimum sentencing to be applicable.
In bargaining of plea, these factors are somehow flexible depending on the strength of the proof provided and the form of punishment the defendant would go through if convicted of the crime. Under most of these situations, the prosecutors mostly permit the defendants and suspects charged with such crimes to plead guilty to a misdemeanor which only attracts a jail term without necessarily triggering mandatory minimum sentencing (Worrall, 2006). Another major effect resulting from mandatory minimum sentencing on petition bargaining is defendant cooperation’s inducement.
A prosecutor wishing to obtain any incriminating evidence has to turn the source that is most accurate, the defendant themselves. Defendants snitching on his or her co-defendants are rewarded with concessions of sentences. In most cases, the mostly easily understood and efficient reward a cooperator can receive from the prosecutor is promise of escaping from being charged with crimes carrying mandatory sentences. This particular practice is quite widespread within the judicial system of United States and can largely be attributed to the mandatory minimum sentencing.
This conduct is in particular widespread within the federal system particularly where more than fifty percent of offenders serving sentences in the federal correctional facilities have been convicted of such cases as gun use and drug crimes. According to a study that was carried out by General Accounting Office in 1993, about 15% of all cases involving various offenders, were in the real sense convicted because of violating several federal laws which carried a mandatory minimum sentence, but due to the fact that such offenders significantly assisted the police officers during investigations, they were jailed for lesser periods.
Furthermore, the proportion of defendants negotiating for pre bargains to crimes that are not carrying the mandatory minimum sentence, in reward for their testimonies or other forms of assistance to the law enforcers is believed to be much higher according to the report, but such data cannot be available from the public databases (Brinkley, 2003).