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Written by Attorney Seth Morris


You’ll face various penalties when convicted of a crime in California. Based on the details, there is a certain level of leeway in your punishment, but mandatory minimum requirements could impact your sentence.

California has recently undergone massive reform regarding mandatory sentences. Here is more about current mandatory minimums in California and how they could affect your case.

What Are Mandatory Minimums in California?

California began imposing mandatory minimum sentences in the 1980s at the peak of the war on drugs. These requirements were meant for nonviolent drug offenses. Unfortunately, what ended up happening was mass incarceration.

These days, current mandatory minimum sentencing requirements have devastated the California criminal justice system and the rights of the accused.

The Negative Impacts of Mandatory Minimums

When mandatory minimums were first enacted, the thought was that imposing a longer sentence would help reduce crime rates. However, people sentenced to mandatory minimums were often re-arrested within three years of release.

This uses taxpayer dollars to keep people in prison, which takes up state resources and creates a continuous cycle of incarceration.

However, criminal penalties shouldn’t only punish nonviolent offenders. They should also try to rehabilitate them. Mandatory requirements take this opportunity away.

Judges Have Limited Power with Mandatory Minimums

Mandatory minimum sentences prevent judges from imposing lesser penalties like probation when someone has been convicted of a non-violent crime. This results in more people being sent to jail or prison and leads to significantly longer incarceration rates.

Doing away with mandatory minimum sentencing gives judges the discretion to help people who could benefit from substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling, or other rehabilitative measures.

Are Mandatory Minimums Different for Felony/Misdemeanor Penalties?

When someone is convicted of a misdemeanor, they could spend only up to a year in jail under California law. Misdemeanor charges are not subject to mandatory minimum sentencing. However, individuals convicted of certain felony charges are subject to the state’s mandatory minimum sentencing rules.

Does California Use Mandatory Minimum Sentences?

As of January 2021, California has stopped using mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for non-violent drug offenses. Judges can now reconsider criminal sentences after someone has been convicted of a crime and spent a minimum of 15 years in prison.

What Crimes No Longer Have Mandatory Minimums?

Currently, all non-violent crimes that result in a minimum of 15 years in prison are eligible for judicial review. Common types of crimes no longer requiring mandatory minimum sentencing include some drug offenses, gun crimes, fraud, other economic offenses, and even pornography-related crimes.

Contact Morris Law Today

If you’re facing harsh penalties, contact a knowledgeable Oakland criminal defense lawyer at Morris Law. Our firm proudly offers a free and confidential case evaluation to individuals facing criminal charges. Take advantage of this opportunity by completing our online form or calling (510) 225-9955.