Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws

mandatory-sentencingMandatory minimum sentencing laws limit court decision setting and judicial discretion. They are used for particular categories of crimes which are usually gun-related and drug-related. Mandatory sentencing laws are main area of interest in common law jurisdictions since civil law jurisdictions prescribe maximum and minimum sentences for every crime in explicit laws. These laws vary from state to state and they require an offender to serve a given number of years in prison. Three strikes rule is a good example of a mandatory sentence which is meant to prevent habitual offenders from committing further crimes. For instance, a third criminal conviction leads to life imprisonment.

Increased punishment and mandatory sentencing were enacted in 1952 when US Congress passed the Boggs Act. The US federal courts use Federal Sentencing Guidelines although statutory mandatory minimum prevails when sentencing range is shorter. The guidelines were drafted in 1960 to provide appropriate prison sentence for various crimes and provide uniformity in punishment for the same crime. However, prosecutors have a great influence on a defendant’s sentence since they can create incentive to accept a plea agreement where applicable. Mandatory minimums have many advantages and disadvantages as discussed below.

 

Uniformity in sentencing and crime deterrence- This is an advantage of mandatory sentences since it serves as a deterrent to criminal offenders by letting them know what is in the store if they continue with criminal activities. For instance, the fear of a mandatory life-sentence can deter a convicted drug dealer from trafficking drugs again. The sentencing also removes the final decision on sentencing a criminal from a jury or judge.  Helps in removing recidivists from the society- Recidivism simply refers to situation where an offender keeps repeating an undesirable behavior despite experiencing consequences. Recidivists are removed from the society by sentencing them to a life imprisonment reducing their number in the society as well as the rate of crime.

Can increase the cost of maintaining prisons- Mandatory sentencing leaves no choice other than to imprison offenders once they are sentenced according to the provision of the law. Such offenders must serve a minimum number of years before possibility of parole. This is hard and it leads to an increase in prison population and places a heavy burden on the government and taxpayers.

Potential for injustice- Mandatory sentencing can easily lead to injustice towards a defendant. This is because the law denies defendants legal resources such as plea bargaining, use of judicial discretion and right to a jury trial. Judicial discretion typically considers mitigating factors like poverty, health and motivating factors before sentencing offenders. Moreover, mandatory sentences may divest judges making it unnecessary to evaluate the type of sentencing appropriate according to the facts of the case. Some people also contend that the sentencing guidelines are unfairly targeting the minority and poor criminals with harsher jail term. For instance, the sentence for possession of powder cocaine has a shorter time than for a similar amount of crack cocaine. Some attorneys contend that this punishes the poor more since they are likely to use crack cocaine more than pure cocaine.

What To Do After a DUI Arrest

Sometimes you may find yourself in the wrong side of law for driving when you are under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. If this happens to you for the first time, the question which runs in the mind is “what do I do next?” A significant numbers of drivers all over the world get arrested for drunk driving. The laws concerning DUI are usually very strict and it is a punishable offense to drink and drive. Once a police officer or a representative from a law enforcement agency suspects you, they will take a breathalyzer test on the spot. If you test positive, you will be arrested immediately. This article provides some tips on what you should do after getting a DUI arrest.

Remember that it is a Criminal Offense to Drink and Drive

Once you get arrested after the officers confirm that you are really drunk, don’t try to fight because you have actually committed a criminal offense. This is different from some other traffic issues you probably face every now then and may be escape with nothing bigger than a fine or license suspension. A conviction for DUI can result in a criminal record and will definitely lead to significant fines or a jail term. It is important to avoid confrontations with the law officers as you may end up doing things which may put you into more problems.

Remember Your Constitutional Rights

One of the most fundamental rights you should practice when being questioned by police officers is the right to remain silent. Once you arrested, the officers will definitely ask you to confirm whether you have been drinking. Some people make a mistake of answering this question honestly. It is wrong to lie, but simply avoid answering this question by either remaining silent or asking for a permission to call your lawyer. There are two important reasons why you should remain silent. First, accepting the accusations alone can provide a probable cause for your arrest. Secondly, some laws allow you to be charged with DUI even when the drug content in your blood is below the legal limit just because you admitted that you were driving under influence yet you know it is an offense.

Contact a DUI Lawyer

Contact an experienced criminal in lawyer located in Lansing, MI or a local attorney to your area who will represent in a court of law. This is also the best person to answer the questions on your behave. The best way to find a good DUI lawyer in such situations is through a referral. If you have had an attorney representing you in any other legal matter before, start there. You may also ask around. Call your friends, family or any individual involved in court matters to recommend the best lawyer for you. If you get a good lawyer, you will have an easy experience during the whole process.

Following these simple tips will help you go the DUI arrest and prosecution process smoothly. Don’t take a follow the advice of your friends who found themselves in the similar cases before on how they dodged the officers or how they beat the DUI case. Your lawyer is the only adviser you should listen to.

Types of Criminal Defenses

If you’ve been accused of a certain crime, then you must appear in front of court. The accused person in this case is also known as a defendant. As a defendant, your criminal lawyer and you will most likely need to establish some types of criminal defenses that could prevent you guilty verdict, which you want to avoid at any cost. Criminal defense is a rather strategic argument which attempts to fully challenge sufficiency and validity of prosecutions evidence. Here are the most common types of criminal defenses:<

Affirmative criminal defense

This is certainly one of the most common and most used criminal defenses in court, which main concept is to strike down prosecutions wholesome evidences by showing that it’s false. These types of affirmative defenses mostly require from defendant and his attorney to produce valid evidences in support of defense. It also has to be taken into consideration that defense type that your attorney and you decide on, will mostly depend on the type of crime that was committed.

Coercion and duress

This is yet another criminal defense type which says that you were unwillingly forced to commit the crime that you’ve been accused for. In most of the cases this is when defendant is defending himself by stating that he or she was threatened with certain unlawful force.

Insanity defense

Insanity defense, which you probably have seen a lot of times in various movies and TV shows, is not in fact used that frequently, nor it’s successful on often occasions. This type of defense directly states that you have committed that crime, but you had not know that the crime you committed was wrong.
For insanity defense to be completely successful, you need to have severe mental defect or disease at that time when your crime was committed. Your attorney and yourself need to present a rather convincing and clear evidences which will be state that you actually had a mental defect or disease at the time when you committed the alleged crime. Relying on this type of defense can be quite risky most of the time, and by using it, you are purposely admitting that you have committed that crime.

Self Defense

Self defense is certainly one of the most used types of defences in the court. By defending yourself with case of self defense, your defense is clearly stating that what you did was nothing wrong, since you had to commit that crime in order to defend yourself. If court realizes that what you did was a basic type of self defense, then you will most likely be fully acquitted from that crime.

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Abandonment and withdrawal

This is also yet another highly used type of defense in court which is also commonly known as renunciation. Concept of this defense is to state that you wanted to commit that crime, or just be an accomplice in it, but then you suddenly decided to fully abandon it, and stating that you were not a part of it on the end.

I also found a great article similar to this one that might be of interest.  Check it out here: Top 10 Defenses Against Criminal Charges

Michigan Texting and Driving Laws

texting-drivingMichigan has coherently joined fourteen states when it made texting while driving a vehicle illegal. Michigan texting and driving law bans typing, reading and sending text messages on a cell phone, iPhone, droid, iPad or any other similar device while driving a car.  Common sense dictates that anything that causes distraction while driving should be avoided. Inexperience driver for example should not drive while using a cell phone as he/she can cause car accident. Such a driver can be charged in a court of law for careless driving.

Michigan texting and driving law is surprisingly readable

Michigan texting and driving law states that an individual shall not manually type, send or read a text message on a wireless device located on the individual’s lap or individual’s hands including wireless cell phone or any other personal communication device, while driving a car on a street or a highway in Michigan State.

Michigan texting and driving law excludes map devices and GPS navigators. However, these devices should be physically attached to the vehicle. Additionally, the law does not ban the passengers from text messaging.

The Michigan anti-texting law usually except drivers who

1. Report a situation in which he or she suspects the person’s or passengers’ safety is in jeopardy

2. Report a medical emergency, traffic accidents and any other serious road hazards

3. Carrying out official duties as a member of fire department, law enforcement officer, police officer or operator of an emergency vehicle.

4. Report a criminal act such as theft against an individual or any other person.

How is the law enforced?

Texting and diving in Michigan is a civil infraction which is considered a primary offense. This means that a police officer can stop your vehicle and ask you to voluntarily show them your phone. This will be based from reasonable suspicion that you were texting while driving. Once you are charged with the offense, the fine imposed will be $100 for the first offense while the second offense will be a $200 fine.  If you are charged with a texting and driving offense, the first thing you should do is contact a Lansing criminal attorney who has experience handling similar cases.

Police officers cannot demand you to show them your phone. This is because the law is just a civil infraction which is only based on reasonable suspicion. However, they can politely ask you to show your phone to them. If you humbly decline this request, the police officer cannot confiscate or seize it to act as evidence in the court of law. The law protects your rights. This means that if the police officer ignores your polite decline and he/she goes ahead to grab your phone by force, an attorney can request the court to dismiss the case in hand by suppressing the phone evidence provided by the police.

Lack of drivers’ awareness of their rights forces them to give in easily to the police request ending up being charged for infracting the law. What you are supposed to provide to the police officer in Michigan State is basically your car registration number, insurance and drivers license. All other questions and requests can politely be declined. However, Michigan texting and driving laws will help to minimize the number of negligent and careless car accidents caused by cell phone distraction when driving.