Mandatory Minimum Sentences:

Are They Being Imposed and Who Is Receiving Them?

GGD-94-13: Published: Nov 4, 1993. Publicly Released: Nov 4, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed federal sentencing policies, focusing on: (1) whether mandatory minimum sentences are being imposed as required; (2) the types of offenders receiving mandatory minimum sentences; and (3) the relationship between mandatory minimum sentences and federal sentencing guidelines.

GAO found that: (1) 85 percent of the convicted offenders facing mandatory minimum sentences of 60 to 120 months are sentenced to at least the mandatory minimum prison time; (2) 15 percent of convicted offenders are sentenced to less than the mandatory minimum because they provide substantial assistance toward the investigation and prosecution of other involved parties; (3) prosecutors use of substantial assistance motions varies between judicial districts; (4) charges carrying mandatory minimum sentences are often dropped, reduced, or never filed because districts interpret mandatory sentencing laws differently, often view mandatory sentences as too severe, face excessive workloads, have insufficient evidence to prosecute, and have other prosecution priorities; (5) federal sentencing guidelines take precedence over mandatory minimum sentences and often increase the sentences imposed; (6) the majority of the offenders receiving mandatory sentences are hispanic and black; and (7) most of the offenders receiving mandatory minimum sentences are male, first time offenders between the ages of 21 and 40, with less than a high school education.

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