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Plea negotiations to avoid mandatory minimum sentences

Judges are supposed to have the discretion to impose penalties after a criminal conviction that is appropriate given the circumstances of the defendant and the facts of the case. Mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for some criminal charges in Florida remove that discretion from judges.

Proposed legislation will permit judges in some cases to deviate from mandatory minimums when they believe the circumstances warrant it. The new law would allow judges to consider the reasons behind the use of a gun by a defendant.

Under current laws, a person who fires a gun at a spouse can be charged with aggravated assault that carries with it penalties requiring a mandatory 20-year prison sentence as the minimum punishment. Judges lack discretion to consider the circumstances of the incident, such as whether or not the person was hit by the bullet or a defendant’s lack of a prior record of assault charges.

The new law would create a self-defense exception to the mandatory minimum sentencing requirement. Judges would be permitted to consider the good faith belief of a defendant that use of a weapon was justified to defend against an attack. The goal of the new law is similar to efforts on the federal level to reduce the number of people being sent to prison or reduce the length of time people have to spend in prison.

A Tampa criminal defense attorney may be able to help a person accused of criminal charges with long-term consequences. Effective plea negotiations may reduce a criminal charge from a felony to a misdemeanor with penalties that are less severe.

Source: My Palm Beach Post, “Editorial: Proposed bill chips away at harsh mandatory sentencing law,” Oct .12, 2015

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