Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Controlled Substance Crimes
Since, the early 1990’s and in response to the nationwide “War on Drugs” Minnesota has taken a drastic approach in amending the criminal penalties for controlled-substance crimes. This approach has resulted in more strict and harsh penalties for those convicted of these crimes, and also the institution of mandatory minimum sentences. These penalties are much more severe than other states, as well as the national average.
See Minnesota in comparison to a sampling of states:
Source: Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission
These harsh penalties have played a significant factor with the Minnesota Department of Corrections being 500 inmates over capacity. The Executive Director Nathaniel J. Reitz of the guidelines commission recently reported that controlled-substance offenders make up two-thirds of Minnesota’s prison population.
Along with severe sentencing practices, another significant contributor to the overpopulated prison population are the mandatory minimum sentences for controlled-substance crimes. A “mandatory minimum sentence” means that a person convicted of a certain type of crime must be sentenced to a minimum number of years/months in prison. Mandatory minimums force judges to impose fixed sentences without regard to the specific circumstances of an individual’s case. In Minnesota, judges may depart (go below) the mandatory minimum sentence if they find substantial and compelling reasons to do so. Mandatory minimum sentences are imposed on those that are convicted of a controlled-substance crime and also have a prior conviction within ten-years of the current conviction. Below is an illustration of Minnesota’s mandatory minimum penalties for controlled-substance crimes.
Mandatory Minimum Penalty:
*Fifth Degree: 6 months if prior drug felony within 10 years.
These mandatory minimum penalties have come under a lot of fire in recent years. This is due, in large part, to the fact that these harsh penalties for first time offenders and also the mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders are over inflating Minnesota’s prison population. Many have called for getting rid of the mandatory minimums completely and lowering the penalties for lower level offenders.
The Minnesota sentencing guidelines commission has recently announced it will seek to reduce the presumptive length of sentences to be imposed for drug possession and sale crimes. However, to date there has not been clarification on whether the harsh mandatory minimums will be amended or changed. Stay tuned regarding the evolution of the law concerning this hot topic.
If you have been charged with a controlled-substance crime, it is crucial that you find an experienced lawyer to represent you. They will help you navigate the legal system and achieve a positive result for your case. Call Sieben & Cotter at 651-455-1555 or send a request for more information and to arrange your free consultation.