ANNOUNCEMENT: Norton Pelt, PLC is relocating! As of 5/2/2022, you can find us at 1103 Princess Anne Street, Fredericksburg, VA 22401. To give you an idea of what to look for, we are moving into a historical home within walking distance of the Fredericksburg Courthouse. Our phone and fax remain the same. If you have any questions, please contact us.

The Future of Mandatory Minimum Sentences Looks Hopeful

Virginia has imposed mandatory minimum sentences for a wide range of offenses ever since 1968, arguably leading to more and more incarcerations yearly. This policy can create much longer sentences for those convicted, and also force many defendants into plea deals, rather than trying their case to a judge or jury.

Because fighting a case at trial runs the risk of being found guilty, and thus facing the mandatory minimum sentence, many defendants opt for a plea deal that reduces or removes the minimum sentence. In fact, it’s estimated that over 95 percent of cases are resolved with plea bargains, and for good reason: the same study found that defendants tended to receive harsher sentences on average if they pursued a jury trial rather than take a deal. Undoubtedly, many innocent defendants have accepted a plea bargain, knowing full and well that they are not guilty, purely to avoid the risk of the lengthy sentence imposed by mandatory minimums.

However, Virginians may soon see an end to mandatory minimum sentences, thanks to ongoing efforts. While the Virginia legislature has rejected the proposal to repeal mandatory minimums in the past, state organizations such as the Virginia State Crime Commission have recommended repealing the policy after they found that minimum sentences create no measurable impact on crime deterrence. Additionally,  some lawmakers have organized a bipartisan effort to remove mandatory minimums. Finally, public support for the removal of mandatory minimums has also risen significantly in recent years, with many citizens feeling their effects firsthand. With this conglomeration of efforts, we’ll hopefully see some much-needed change to the mandatory minimum sentencing schemes.

For those facing criminal charges, whether they include a mandatory minimum sentence or not, Norton Pelt is here to help. We have a deep understanding of the Virginia criminal justice system, and we always keep your best interests in mind. Contact our team to schedule your consultation today.

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