The main focus of the term paper is the effect of mandatory minimum sentencing on the judicial system of the United States. At first the paper looks at the background information concerning this form of sentencing. The paper then discusses in detail various effects that have resulted from the application of mandatory minimum sentencing in the country. The term paper notes that this form of sentencing has both positive and negative effects on the country’s judicial system. Introduction
Mandatory sentencing refers to a court decision that is highly controversial, in which the discretion of the judiciary is restricted by law. Typically, individuals convicted of some forms of crimes have to go through a punishment with a set minimum of years. Increased punishment and mandatory sentencing were enacted in 1952 when the congress of the US passed the Act of Bongs as well as the control Act of narcotics. These acts effectively made an individual apprehended for the possession of marijuana for the first time to serve a minimum of between two and ten years in jail and a fine not exceeding $20000.
Under mandatory minimum sentencing, the courts are under obligation to sentence the offenders for a period not less than the one set by the statutes. Mandatory sentencing has been credited to crime reduction as people fear committing such crimes since they are aware that these crimes are capable of imprisoning them for a long period of time (Brinkley, 2003). Effects of mandatory minimum sentencing Any assessment of the manner in which law operates must take into consideration the effect of law on pretrial events.
This is due to the fact that mandatories are only applicable when a law breaker is convicted because of offences that are well specified in various legislations. Almost unanimously, studies that have been carried out in respect to mandatory minimum sentences have revealed that the aspects which are most severe are usually moderated by defenders and prosecutors in decisions that are largely pretrial (Samaha, 2005). For the defenders, they are always very reluctant in pleading guilty to crimes when the most likely sentence will be harsh on them.
This implies that one of the effects of mandatory minimum sentencing is increasing the depth of investigations as well as consuming more judicial time. Since the accused are not swift in pleading guilty when they are aware that the crimes they have committed will attract a mandatory minimum sentence, more time will be consumed before such cases can be determined. The courts and the law enforcers have therefore been compelled by these forms of sentences to spend significant amounts of time when handling such cases.
This particular effect resulting from the mandatory minimum sentencing has greatly strained the available resources of dealing with criminals in the American judicial system. When the accused is reluctant in pleading guilty to the charges brought against him or her, the law enforcers are forced to carryout more comprehensive and thorough investigations which can be effectively used in a court of law against the defendant. This is one of the positive effects of the mandatory minimum sentencing since it has reduced the number of people being incarcerated unjustly without sufficient evidence.
The mandatory minimum sentences have therefore improved the efficiency of the decisions made by the courts (Messner & Rosenfeld, 2001). Although these sentences have improved justice in American judicial system, they have been responsible for increasing the amount of time and resources spent in such crimes. The attorneys defending law breakers, who have committed crimes attracting such crimes, are known to apply any available loophole within the American judicial system and laws in ensuring that their clients are not made to serve such sentences.
They apply tactics that end consuming a lot of time and thus making it more difficult for the courts to make decisions. This particular effect has impacted negatively on the country’s judicial system as it not only affects cases involving crimes attracting mandatory minimum sentences, but also affects the other cases in general. At times, the courts shy from sentencing people with such crimes without sufficient and highly convincing evidence.
This therefore means that the American courts can easily release a criminal even though there is some evidence by arguing that it is not sufficient. The main reason of doing so is to avoid instances of jailing people for long periods of time and yet the evidence that was brought before the court was not convincing enough. The courts have either to release such people or imprison them for the stipulated period. The decisions of the American courts have thus been greatly affected by the mandatory minimum sentences which are quite rigid (Worrall, 2006).
Some impact studies assessing the effects of mandatory minimum sentencing have indeed noted that the American judicial system have continued to function as it previously did before these laws were passed. Despite the intense political campaigns surrounding the passage of these laws, offenders who are mostly affected by them, have been made to serve long prison sentences. This is the case since their cases are determined using both the existing laws governing their crimes, as well as the mandatory minimum sentences added.
The mandatory minimum sentencing has greatly affected the judicial system of America as various states interpret them differently. Some states such as California argue that three-strike laws are only applicable to serious felonies. This implies that for the similar crimes, the offenders are likely to be sentenced differently depending on the state in which the sentences are being passed. Such an effect does not auger well for the country’s judicial system since all the states apply the same constitution and thus similar sentences should be offered for similar crimes.
If this is not the case, the judicial system cannot be said to be effective in achieving one of its major objectives, which is fairness and justice for all (Goldberg, 2009). Minimum mandatory sentencing implies that once an offender is arrested and taken to court for certain crimes, upon finding such an individual guilty, the court will sentence the law breaker a period equal or exceeding a certain minimum sentence. This is knowledge that is common to the general American population. Most of the minimum sentences offered to law breakers are long periods of time.
The American criminals are thus greatly deterred to commit crimes attracting mandatory sentences. Therefore, mandatory sentencing has greatly affected the number of people committing such crimes. There are fewer instances of people committing crimes which are known to attract mandatory minimum sentences. Criminals shy from committing such crimes and therefore one of greatest effects that can be associated with mandatory minimum sentencing is crime reduction (Kelso, Altam Associates, Alaska State Office of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Anchorage (Alaska), Prosecutor’s Office, 1984).