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Federal crimes and mandatory minimums: Does a conviction mean prison time?

On Behalf of | Dec 2, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

In some cases, a judge has a lot of discretion over what type of sentence they provide. Once a person is convicted, the judge can look at the guidelines and determine what they think is appropriate. In some cases, this may mean that an individual avoids jail time because the penalties are either fines or time behind bars. The judge may decide that the individual should just have to pay the fine for a first offense, for example, but that they would have to serve jail time for a second offense.

That being said, many federal crimes have mandatory minimum sentences. Some reports from the U.S. government indicate that this happens in roughly one out of every three cases that the federal government sees. If there are mandatory minimums, does this mean you will have to go spend time in prison?

The ramifications of a conviction

If the mandatory minimum conviction is used, then it could mean that you have to spend time behind bars. This does happen to thousands of people every year. For example, in 2021, the number of federal cases with a mandatory minimum penalty was 16,439.

However, some people are given relief from the mandatory minimum penalties. Reports claim that this happened in about 46.5% of the mandatory cases for 2021. As a result, only 15.7% of all of the offenders had to use the mandatory minimum sentence.

Granted, not all of the offenders were obligated to have such a sentence in the first place. Of those who were, the majority – at 53.5% – still had to serve time under the minimum sentence.

What does this mean for you?

These statistics show that mandatory minimum sentences are certainly used and that these sentences can be quite strict. Relief is sometimes given, but not always, and you may find that a conviction would mean you have to spend time in prison. This is why it is so important to understand all of your legal options when you’re facing charges.