“This case … is a classic example of how inflexible mandatory minimum sentences may result in injustices within the legal system that should not be tolerated.” – Florida District Court Judge James Wolf in Florida judge: 20-year sentence for firing gun an injustice [via jacksonville.com]

 

39 Responses to Quote of the Day: The Injustice of Mandatory Minimum Sentences

  1. Mandatory minimum sentences are an injustice. But they are the result of legislatures fed up with liberal activist judges letting the real bad guys off with lenient sentences just to recidivate.

      • The only way to get rid of stupid laws that could be oppressively enforced by inflamed judges and juries is to ensure a level of enforcement of all laws.

        If you don’t want “warning shots” or “defensive display” to be crimes punishable by jail time, then either change the mandatory minimum legislatively, or repeal the statutes against them, then work on convincing the governor to pardon the people imprisoned by under the unjust law.

        • Agree. The people vote in politicians, then look to some supernumerary to come along and alter the laws the elected politicians legislate into existence.

          “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
          But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

          And subject to our own follies.

    • Gman nailed it.

      The ideal justice system relies on JUDGES, elected or appointed because of their ability to exercise good JUDGMENT. But that doesn’t always happen.

    • Pretty much. I kinda feel sorry for the fellow based on his circumstance (esp in a physical struggle with a person in his home which should have been an affirmative defense) but the harsh truth is that if prosecutors and judges did their job and stopped revolving door justice (like in Chicago where you commonly see people with a mile long rap sheet and often on bail, parole or probation shooting other people) then they wouldn’t pass laws like this in the first place.

    • No they’re not. They’re the result of dumbass “Law and Order” authoritarian types thinking more laws will reduce crime.

  2. The notion of a mandatory minimum is absurd especially since there are so many asinine laws.
    That said, I’m under the impression that as long as an argument can be made during sentencing to justify not adhering to the mandatory minimum then a sentence can deviate from the guidelines. It’s that judges either don’t care to put in the extra effort of they force the guideline for political reasons.

    Granted my knowledge of this comes from a series NPR did back in May and June so my impression is likely incorrect.

    • You’re conflating two different things here. Sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimum sentences are entirely different things.

      Sentencing guidelines are just that: “guidelines.” They provide the judge with a suggestion as to what the sentence should be for a particular crime, but the judge can deviate from the guidelines, and sentence the offender to whatever term is permitted by law. Although it varies by state, typically the law provides a maximum permissible sentence for each crime, and the judge can sentence the offender to any term, so long as it doesn’t exceed the maximum. The idea behind sentencing guidelines is to provide some general uniformity of sentencing, while allowing judges to deviate (either higher or lower) based on the circumstances.

      Mandatory minimums, on the other hand, are in fact “mandatory.” The judge still has discretion to impose a harsher sentence, but the sentence has to be *at least* the mandatory minimum.

  3. Perhaps he should have made wiser decisions, like calling the police, not letting her in, or not copulating with an insane parter.

  4. As noted often in the past….if law and the application of law cannot be perfect, repeal all laws. Without laws, the crime rate goes to zero. You only have the individual rights you can personally defend and protect anyway.

  5. “Court documents show that Wolf’s ex-girlfriend and mother of his child barged into his fiancee’s Jacksonville home in 2013 to confront him. He asked her to leave, she refused and a struggle ensued. Wright drew a gun and fired it to scare her off.” “Wright was convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill. ” “He was 24 at the time, with no prior criminal record”

    Wait, why was he criminally charged? Mandatory minimums don’t override a defense of self-defense. What is this article not telling me?

    • The real “injustice” here is the charge itself which was done by the prosecuting attorney’s office. They had lots of options, but they decided to go with the harshest charge, probably for political purposes. Unfortunately for the defendant he was convicted under that charge, few options remain.

    • While not an expert in Florida law, I don’t see how this isn’t a case of self defense/defense of property.

  6. Mandatory minimums are a distraction from the real problem. The real problem is that jail should be used to get the violent out of society, and to keep them there until they are no longer a danger to society. How can you set a time limit on that? You can’t — each case needs to be viewed individually.

    Recidivism is proof positive that our “serve your time” jail system is fundamentally broken, and should be ripped out at the roots and replaced with a sensible jail system.

    “If you’re a threat to society, you no longer get to be in society, and if you’re no longer a threat to society, then you can rejoin society.” That should be the only sentencing guideline.

    • That’s fine in theory, but how in the world do you implement such a system, short of being able to predict the future? And what exactly constitute a “danger to society” that requires lock up for an indeterminate time period? A drunk who gets in a bar fight should be locked up until it can be definitively shown that he won’t ever get into a bar fight again?

  7. Mandatory sentences are BS. I know of some poor folks who got severe prison time for a freaking WEED. 20 years for what appears to be self-defense?!? He should live in Chiraq…

  8. Sounds to me like the problem isn’t the sentencing laws, but the decision to prosecute this guy for self defense. This is why SYG was created. The crooked prosecutors who hate allowing anyone to defend themselves go after anybody they think they can convict. Witness Shaheen Allen. Until we have prosecutors who actually are fair and honest, it doesn’t matter what the sentencing guidelines are. The poor or less affluent are always in jeopardy if they act to defend their own lives.

    • For one, DAs are elected, and being politicians desiring to be re-elected, they must appear “tough on crime.” Second, from a tactical perspective, it is always better to overcharge and negotiate down than it is to undercharge and try to amend. Between the two, most prosecutors don’t give a damn about “justice,” and typically overcharge and overprosecute many cases.

  9. Mandatory minimum sentences look like a travesty of justice that don’t actually serve to prevent the evil they are supposed to address.

    The armed robber is arrested, facing 2 charges: aggravated robbery; and, a gun charge. Suppose the sentence is 5 on each charge; if both are prosecuted he gets concurrent sentences. Alternatively, suppose the robbery is 5 but 10 on the gun charge. The prosecutor will plea-bargain the gun charge away to get an easy conviction on the 5-year robbery charge. The prosecutor gets what he needs – a conviction – without burdening the prison system with another 5 man-years of usage.

    The otherwise law-abiding citizen is charged with a single non-violent gun crime calling for a 5 or 10 year sentence. No other violation available to achieve the conviction. The prosecutor NEEDs a conviction; he only WISHES to reduce the borden on the prison system.

    OUR-own tough-on-crime advocacy of minimum sentencing is – arguably – counter-productive.

    Our real problem is a criminal-justice-system that has no appetite for increasing the incarceration rate of young male minorities. To even things out, it’s willing to incarcerate more whites. It’s also eager to incarcerate law-abiding people who dare to exercise 2A rights. The only solution is a simultaneous and persistent political movement to:
    – protect 2A rights
    – build EXCESS prison capacity
    – focus attention on violent crimes
    – emphasize carear criminal confinement
    – find and apply effective solutions to social bases of crime

  10. I posit that the crime problem’s biggest root is that people who are very unqualified are having and raising kids. If there is anything that that there should be qualification requirements for that would be it. I doubt very much that it could be implemented in anyway though. I myself realized that I did not have what it would take to be a good parent and opted out, so did my ex even with her next husband who wanted kids.

  11. Although I don’t have all facts involved in the case, this problem seems to be a problem that the legislature could eliminate if it wanted to. All they would have to do is change the law so that the mandatory minimum only applied with a previous felony conviction. The purpose of this would to be to keep first time offenders from being impacted while more severely punishing repeat offenders.
    Even if this were done however, it seems like the prosecutor might’ve been a bit overzealous here. Of course, I can’t kniw WHY they may have been overzealous. There may be a logical reason and then again there may not.
    I was once a juror in a case where a man was charged with an aggravated robbery felony for a shoplifting offense. The prosecution’s theory was that the man had threatened employees with physical force and violence and therefore deserved the aggravated robbery charge. None of the employees called to testify suggested that the man threatened them in any way and there was parking lot video of the man being taken down to the ground without resisting.
    The jurors decided that based on the evidence, that the prosecution was overreaching. It may have been because the guy had been involved in other offenses that we weren’t told about. Then again, maybe the prosecutor was just being a jerk.

  12. The entire justice system needs an overhaul.

    The trial process is about winning when it should really be about uncovering the truth. And the whole thing about being judged by a jury of my peers is BS. Anyone who can’t figure out how to get out of jury duty is not my peer.

    The prison system should be about correcting behaviors for those who can be redeemed and separating the violent psychopaths from society, not punishment. Punishment doesn’t seem to be working as a deterrent. It makes no sense to take an 18 year old idiot who stole a car for a joyride and toss him in a hole to be raped by monsters. That’s not going to make anyone a better person.

    But nothing will ever change. There’s just too much money to be made off the current system (read private prison industry). It’s also why marijuana will never be legalized on the Federal level. Doing so would cut into to bottom lines Big Prison and Big Pharma.

    • “The trial process is about winning when it should really be about uncovering the truth.” – A prosecutor’s job is to see that justice done. A District Attorney gets elected by being “tough on crime.” In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve. It’s usually not a good one.

      “Punishment doesn’t seem to be working as a deterrent.” I know someone alive today because of the deterrent effect of the law. I also know some property currently not be vandalized because of it. Deterrence doesn’t work on the people who still commit the crime. It works on all the people who would have committed a crime if not for the law.

      Would anyone pay any taxes if they weren’t concerned about getting punished?

      • ‘“Punishment doesn’t seem to be working as a deterrent.” I know someone alive today because of the deterrent effect of the law. I also know some property currently not be vandalized because of it. Deterrence doesn’t work on the people who still commit the crime. It works on all the people who would have committed a crime if not for the law.

        Would anyone pay any taxes if they weren’t concerned about getting punished?’

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

        The founders were completely conscious of the condition of man, but under-estimated their ability to understand the challenges that would manifest in the future. Communism? Extinguished or putting itself out. Britain? Not such a huge problem anymore. Slavery? Not here (in the same form that it was).

        “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects” – NSA and government spying on us like crazy, then lying about it.tc.

        “keep and bear arms” – NFA, GCA, Hughues, AWB, all bureaucratic agencies.

        “Cruel and unusual punishment” – 20 years for trying to scare someone away with a loud noise.

        You can go on, but I’m trying to show that the challenges that the founders knew they did not know of, have been much, much, much easier on us than the demons they knew well. I would trade a more over-bearing constitution for more flexibility any day, because congress usually screws it up anyway.

        The next constitution (if the country wants to remain free) will consist of a base document similar to the one we currently have, but will have linking footnotes which are kind of like the federalist papers. Background, examples, history, rants, etc. Ones that describe the intent, the examples of where the intent of founders was ignored by judges and unscrupulous politicians.

        Then the last paragraph will deposit $50 billion dollars in 15 or 20 old and large banks in different countries and continents of the world. The currencies shall be traded on inflation, so if the dollar goes down it will be in the pound or yen too. If a patriot can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a traitor on the public payroll of the USA ignored a provision of the constitution or its footnotes, the person or his/her heirs gets a payment of $1 billion US, and the option of moving to the country where that bank resides….when a preponderance of evidence is established that the patriot killed the traitor.

        That will make anyone drawing a paycheck from the federal government think twice, and as long as debt exists, there will be a man who will kill for his family. Maybe no one would volunteer to work for the federal government, but that’s not a bad problem to have honestly.

  13. “Anyone who can’t figure out how to get out of jury duty is not my peer.”

    Some people view it as just that. A duty and therefore don’t try to get out of it unless they have a good reason.

    On top of that, sometimes you can’t get out of it. I was asked no questions by either the defense attorney nor the prosecutor I was simply selected by basically being ignored. Of course when the judge asked I could have lied but a guy earlier in the day did that and when the judge somehow found out about it he put out a bench warrant for the guy and told the rest of us that he was going to give the guy 30 days for lying to the court and wouldn’t hesitate to do that to anyone who lied to get out of jury duty. It’s $72/day to go to jail in my county or $2160 plus 30 days in the slammer.

    Sitting on a jury for a serious case fucking sucks. Fortunately, the folks on my jury took it damn seriously because if we found this guy guilty his life was pretty much over. Like die in prison type serious. It’s a pretty heavy job and you don’t really want people who really, really want to be there on your jury because they’re probably out to fry your ass.

  14. I personally see nothing wrong with the 10-20-life law…. but I have a problem with how it’s being applied here.

    It’s supposed to be applied when a suspect involves a firearm in the commission of another crime. In this case, the prosecutor apparently chose to use the discharge of the firearm as the crime (aggravated assault). Basically, he’s being charged for firing a gun while firing a gun.

    So the problem isn’t with the law itself… it’s that the case was allowed to progress as far as it did. The prosecutor should never have charged him. And the judge should have had the power/discretion to throw the case out.

  15. I don’t believe in mandatory minimums. I believe in Mandatory Maximum sentences for any crime involving drug dealing, violence or sexual assault. If a death results or a minor is the victim then death is the only sentence necessary. We spend more money in this country on prisons and prisoners than we do on schools and education. It’s way past time to start putting repeat offenders to death. Three strikes and you’re dead.

  16. Who’s the offended party in this case? The “state”? What does that even mean here? This man should never have been arrested.

    • In criminal matters, the state is always the other party. Sometimes styled “the people.”

      If you commit violence, you have encroached on the state’s monopoly. Or that’s at least how the state sees it.

  17. Another sad tale of “never fire a warning shot. If you aren’t justified in shooting the other person, you aren’t justified in firing a warning shot.” (I don’t particularly agree with this view, but it is what is usually applied by police and prosecutors. If “brandishing” doesn’t work, a warning shot often does, and it is better than shooting someone. But the law takes the choice away.

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