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What are mandatory minimum sentences?

When individuals are facing drug charges, their first concern is often how the penalties will affect their lives. Will they face jail time or have to pay expensive fines?

The answers to these questions often change depending on the situation. However, individuals should know that many drug crimes are governed by mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

Sentencing often depends on the individual circumstances

Most of the time, the sentence and penalties for a crime depend on various factors, including:

  • The type of crime, including whether it is a misdemeanor or felony;
  • Whether or not the individual used a weapon;
  • The individual’s background and criminal record;
  • Whether the charge was a first offense or a repeat offense; as well as
  • If the individual is willing to cooperate with law enforcement.

Judges consider these factors and the facts presented in the case to determine what kind of sentence to pass.

However, mandatory minimum sentences can change that

In some cases, mandatory minimum sentencing laws dictate the penalties for certain crimes. Essentially, these laws define the penalties and sentences for specific crimes that generally pertain to crimes such as:

  • Drug crimes, including possession and trafficking;
  • Alcohol-related charges, including DUIs; and
  • Particularly violent crimes, including sex crimes.

Mandatory minimum sentences exist at both the state and federal levels. And Kentucky is known for having strict mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, specifically for drug charges.

Judges generally must follow these guidelines. This does not leave much leeway for them to consider the individual factors listed above in certain cases.

The risk that charges under mandatory minimum sentencing laws pose is only one of the reasons individuals should consult a skilled defense attorney. After all, understanding all of their options and rights against drug charges can make all the difference to reduce their sentence and protect their future.