Protecting Your Rights - Providing criminal defense services to clients throughout the East Bay and its surrounding areas. Protecting
Your Rights

Providing criminal defense services to
clients throughout the East Bay and
its surrounding areas.

How long is too long for some crimes?

This is a question judges face all of the time. As part of their duties as judge, they are to exercise judgment and discretion in determining how long an individual should serve to pay their debt to society. This discretion has been eroded in many cases over the last few decades, as politicians, needing to demonstrate their "toughness" on crime, have created ever more crimes with mandatory minimum sentences.

This has become, literally, a growing problem as state prison systems became packed with inmates, fed in large part, by drugs crimes. Because relativity minor criminal offenses could combine over time under "three-strike" regimes, sentences could grow to seemingly disproportionate levels

The New York Times has a recent story discussing the absurd situations that result. One case involved a woman whose boyfriend was involved in drug trafficking. He stored some drugs in her apartment and the police arrested both.

She had had a prior drug conviction, and the mandatory sentencing guidelines in the mid-nineties imposed a life with no parole sentence on her. Her boyfriend, with much greater involvement in the drug trade, was able to obtain a lesser sentence because he had information the prosecutors needed. He served five years, while she is trapped in a life sentence with no chance of parole.

Even the conservative, Republican-appointed sentencing judge found the result an injustice, but he had no choice.

California now spends more money on its prison system than it does on higher education, and is still under a federal court order to reduce inmate overcrowding. Ironically, reform may arrive because of financial crises, where pleas to justice have failed.

Source: New York Times, "For Lesser Crimes, Rethinking Life Behind Bars," John Tierney, December 11, 2012

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