What is Mandatory Minimum Sentencing?

According to the United States Sentencing Commission, nearly 60% of federal offenders were convicted of a crime that carries a minimum mandatory sentence. This means that the individuals were convicted of a crime for which the law mandates the offender serve a certain sentence. These minimums are strictly enforced on those who have been convicted of a federal offense. The purpose of mandatory minimum sentencing regulation is to remove the judge’s discretion and ensure that the convicted felon serves a predetermined sentence.


Drug Charges

Among the most common offenses that carry federal mandatory minimum sentences are crimes involving illicit controlled substances. The distribution and trafficking of large amounts of controlled substances almost always carry a minimum sentencing penalty. For the most part, sentencing for drug-related offenses is solely based on the type of drug and the quantity of the substance. Among other offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences are those that cause serious injury, death, and repeat offenses. For drug offenses, the following are the eight substances that carry mandatory minimum sentences:

  • Cocaine (powder);
  • Crack cocaine;
  • Propanamide;
  • Methamphetamine;
  • Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD);
  • Phencyclidine (PCP);
  • Marijuana;
  • Heroin


One of the primary purposes of mandatory sentencing guidelines is to curb public perception of varying leniency in sentencing or inconsistency in judge’s decisions. However, it is important to note that the majority of crimes do not carry mandatory sentences. This is to ensure that the punishment is tailored to the crime, rather than the other way around. Thus, judges still have the ability to show discretion on most crimes as they decide what the punishment should be.

The United States Supreme Court held that in order for a convicted felon’s sentence to increase past the mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, the jury must submit factual reasoning for the increased sentence, then this information must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Following this, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant’s actions rightfully warrant an increase in sentencing.

Reasoning for Sentencing Minimums

Across the legal community, there are five main agreed-upon reasons for criminal punishment and sentencing minimums. They are as follows:

  • Closure: One of the primary principles of punishment is to provide closure for victim and their family. Strict sentencing often helps a family feel like justice has been served and offers a sense of vindication.
  • Rehabilitation: It is also common to believe that criminal punishment serves as a form of rehabilitation where convicts will have time to reflect and change their ways.
  • Retribution: Others believe that harsh punishment should be levied on convicts as a form of payback for the wrong they have committed.
  • Future Prevention: Deterrence is also a primary reason people advocate for harsh sentencing. It is common to believe that sentencing should deter other individuals from potentially committing a crime.
  • Removal From Society: The most basic reasoning for punishment is to ensure the criminal is removed from the general population of society. This serves as a way to protect law abiding citizens.

Do You Need Help?

If you have been convicted of a criminal offense that carries a mandatory minimum sentence, reach out to a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. At the Law Office of Raphael M. Scheetz our team is prepared to help you understand your situation and advocate on your behalf should you need representation. If you need help or are in need of more information contact our office at 800-450-3140 to request a consultation.


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