Mandatory Sentencing

sentence

sentence, in criminal law, punishment that a court orders, imposed on a person convicted of criminal activity. Sentences typically consist of fines, corporal punishment, imprisonment for varying periods including life, or capital punishment, and sometimes combine two or more elements. In the United States, the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution bans "cruel and unusual punishments" (effectively excluding corporal punishment), and exile and forfeiture of property by heirs are not imposed. Especially in punishing misdemeanors, payment of a fine may be the alternative to a prison sentence.

The sentence to be imposed is generally fixed by statute. In some cases (mandatory sentencing) the duration is exactly prescribed; in others the judge (and in some instances, the jury) has limited discretion. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that courts in sentencing may, and sometimes must, consider not only the crimes for which a defendant was convicted, but also other charges, even if they led to acquittal. The Court has also ruled that only a jury may make the factual findings that can increase a sentence beyond the usual range specified in law for a crime. If a person is convicted of more than one crime at a single trial, the sentences may run concurrently (i.e., all beginning at the same time) or consecutively. In indeterminate sentencing, a minimum and maximum term is set, and good behavior may allow a convict to be released on parole any time after the minimum term has been served. In many states successive convictions on felony charges bring longer sentences, and in the 1980s some U.S. states and the federal government began to impose "three strikes" and similar laws, ordering mandatory long-term or life imprisonment for repeated felony offenses. Such laws have been criticized for sometimes requiring long sentences for nonviolent offenders whose crimes may include petty theft or drug possession. Persons found incapable of understanding the nature of their crimes or of helping in their defense are often committed to mental institutions for periods that are to end if they recover sanity; these are effectively, if not technically, sentences. See also verdict, jury, and pardon.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Punishment and Democracy: Three Strikes and You're out in California
Franklin E. Zimring; Gordon Hawkins; Sam Kamin.
Oxford University Press, 2003
Citizenship Status, Race, Ethnicity, and Their Effects on Sentencing
Jawjeong Wu.
LFB Scholarly, 2011
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Federal Sentencing Guidelines"
Mandatory Sentencing and Racial Disparity: Assessing the Role of Prosecutors and the Effects of Booker
Starr, Sonja B.; Rehavi, M. Marit.
The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 123, No. 1, October 2013
Much Ado about Sentencing: The Influence of Apprendi, Blakely, and Booker in the U.S. Courts of Appeals*
Hurwitz, Mark S.
Justice System Journal, Vol. 27, No. 1, January 1, 2006
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Too Severe?: A Defense of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines (and a Critique of Federal Mandatory Minimums)
Cassell, Paul G.
Stanford Law Review, Vol. 56, No. 5, April 2004
The Impact of Mandatory Minimum Penalties in Federal Sentencing
Mauer, Marc.
Judicature, Vol. 94, No. 1, July/August 2010
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Symbol and Substance: Effects of California's Three Strikes Law on Felony Sentencing
Sutton, John R.
Law & Society Review, Vol. 47, No. 1, January 1, 2013
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
"Women of Circumstance"-The Effects of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing on Women Minimally Involved in Drug Crimes
Gaskins, Shimica.
American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 41, No. 4, Fall 2004
The Perpetual Prisoner Machine: How America Profits from Crime
Joel Dyer.
Westview Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Discusses mandatory sentencing in Chap. 6 "The Weapons of War"
Mandatory Sentencing: One Judge's Perspective, 2002
Oberdorfer, Louis F.
American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 40, No. 1, Winter 2003
Penal Populism and Public Opinion: Lessons from Five Countries
Julian V. Roberts; Loretta J. Stalans; David Indermaur; Mike Hough.
Oxford University Press, 2003
Librarian’s tip: "Mandatory Sentencing" begins on p. 54
Fifteen Years after the Federal Sentencing Revolution: How Mandatory Minimums Have Undermined Effective and Just Narcotics Sentencing
Weinstein, Ian.
American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 40, No. 1, Winter 2003
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