If you are charged with a criminal offense in the State of California you will face a number of potential penalties if convicted of the offense. The exact penalties, both judicial and non-judicial, you face will depend on a number of factors. Many criminal offenses in California include minimum mandatory sentences if convicted as do many federal crimes. If you are facing a prosecution for a crime that includes a mandatory minimum sentence you should have a firm understanding of what that means. Because there are so many factors and circumstances that go into determining a sentence, you should consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney for specific advice and guidance; however, a basic understanding of mandatory minimum sentences is a good place to start.
As a general rule, if you are convicted of a criminal offense in California the potential penalties for the crime can vary. For many misdemeanor offenses the possible jail time, for example, is stated in terms of “up to” a specific amount of time. For example, the punishment for a first time DUI in California includes “up to” six months in jail. For felony offenses, a defendant typically faces one of three terms of imprisonment if convicted. First degree burglary, for example, carries with it a term of imprisonment of two, four, or six years if convicted. The sentence you receive will depend on a number of factors including the facts of the instant offense and your criminal history. Sometimes, however, an offense includes a mandatory minimum sentence.
California’s “Three Strikes” law was known as one of the harshest mandatory minimum sentencing laws in the country until its recent reform. Although the recent reforms now prevent the law’s application to non-serious offenses, the law still applies to defendants convicted of serious felonies. Under the Three Strikes law a defendant faces a mandatory term of imprisonment of 25 years to life upon the conviction of a third serious felony. What this means is that if the Three Strikes law applies to you, a judge is required to sentence you to a minimum of 25 years in prison.
At the federal level there are also criminal offenses, and/or offenders that qualify for mandatory minimum sentencing. A crime can qualify by statute or a defendant can qualify based on the defendant’s criminal history. Either way, if mandatory minimum sentencing applies it means that the judge must sentence you to a specific minimum term of imprisonment. The judge can sentence you to a longer term, but not a shorter term. Moreover, the mandatory minimum portion of your sentence cannot be suspended, meaning you will have to actually serve at least that much of your sentence before being paroled.
Because the mandatory minimum sentencing laws can be confusing at both the state and federal level it is always best to consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney about your specific case.