The penalties for a criminal charge vary, usually depending on the crime’s severity. How much damage the crime caused to human life and property is considered when determining an appropriate punishment for a convicted defendant.

For example, you will likely face harsher penalties if you commit assault with a deadly weapon than without one. Sometimes, a criminal offense is serious enough that a judge cannot choose to lessen the sentence regardless of evidence. Here’s what’s important to know.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences: What Are They?

A criminal case in the United States takes place in two parts. First, a court determines if the defendant is guilty. Then, a judge decides what their punishment should be. This can include multiple forms of rehabilitation or penalties, such as high fines, jail time, drug and alcohol counseling, parental counseling, and more.

If the judge overseeing the case thinks the defendant will respond better to inpatient rehabilitation than incarceration, they can make that call except in cases where the defendant has been convicted of a crime that carries a mandatory minimum sentence. Under these circumstances, a judge can add more time or other penalties to a sentence, but may not lessen the predetermined sentence length or required punishments.

Which California Crimes Have a Mandatory Minimum?

California has been a U.S. leader in mandatory minimum sentencing after introducing the “Three Strikes” law in 1994. Under this law, a defendant who as committed three felony crimes faces at least 25 years in a state prison, regardless of what those felonies are or how many years passed in between each crime. This includes all felonies in California, including both serious crimes like murder and rape and those that are nonviolent and arguably less severe, like fraud.

Strategies to Avoid Sentencing

A plea deal is a common strategy used to bypass being issued a mandatory minimum. This involves the prosecutor offering to charge you with a lesser offense in exchange for your agreement to plead guilty. While this may seem like the opposite of fighting criminal charges, it may be the most effective path to the least severe penalties possible in your individual case.

When to Call an Experienced Sacramento Criminal Defense Lawyer

Contacting a California criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after being arrested for a crime, whether you face a mandatory minimum sentence or not, is in your best interests. Contact Jennifer Mouzis today by calling (916) 822-8702.