February 21, 2020

Federal mandatory minimum sentences vary greatly

A person who is facing certain federal criminal charges might be looking at a mandatory minimum sentence. While the terminology would imply that there is nothing you can do to get the sentence reduced, there is sometimes the possibility of relief from the mandatory minimum. Understanding some basic points about how this relief works might benefit defendants. 

There are three exceptions available to provide relief from mandatory minimums. One of these has to do with only drug trafficking and unlawful possession charges. The other two have to do with how much the defendant cooperates with the prosecutor in a way that helps with the prosecution or investigation of another case. 

The terms of relief aren’t always applied evenly. Of the 69,425 cases that were reported to the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2018, 16,228 were associated with a mandatory minimum penalty. This equates to 24.7%. Out of those cases, 40.6% were given relief from the mandatory minimum sentence. 

The breakdown of relief by race shows some interesting points. By race, relief was broken down as follows:

  • Hispanic: 57.6%
  • Other: 36.8%
  • White: 31.5%
  • Black: 23.5%

Women are also more likely to be given relief than males. Just over 65% of female offenders were provided relief — compared to 37% of males. Interestingly, 65.9% of non-citizens were given relief, while only 33.1% of citizens received the same. 

If you’re facing federal charges that are subjected to mandatory minimum sentences, ensure that you understand all your options for a defense. You may find that seeking relief from the mandatory minimums based on one of the three exceptions might be beneficial to your case. 


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