Jacob Sullum in Forbes: Mandatory Minimums Give Prosecutors the Power to Coerce Guilty Pleas


In 2005 Sandra Avery was arrested for possessing 50 grams of crack cocaine with intent to deliver. That amount, less than two ounces, was enough to trigger a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence. Because federal prosecutors did not offer to reduce the sentence, Avery went to trial. She was convicted and received a mandatory life sentence after prosecutors called the court's attention to two prior convictions for possessing small amounts of crack. Writing in Forbes, Senioir Editor Jacob Sullum explains how that kind of disparity magnifies the injustice caused by mandatory minimum sentencing rules, punishing people more severely for exercising their right to a trial than for violating the drug laws.

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