Why Do We Oppose Mandatory Minimum Sentences?

Meanwhile, crime victim advocate Joe Wamback, a Newmarket resident and former federal Conservative candidate, supports the omnibus legislation. His son, Jonathan, was beaten into a coma in 1999.

The Smickle ruling is “the reason we need minimum sentencing in our legislation”, he said.

Defence lawyers who criticize mandatory minimum sentences are in a conflict of interest, he argued, since they derive their income from repeatedly representing people accused of a crime.

“Put them away and (the lawyer) doesn’t have to defend him a third, fourth and fifth time,” he said.

(YorkRegion.com, h/t Toronto criminal-defense lawyer Edward Prutschi.)

This is utterly loopy. Where there are mandatory minima, criminal-defense lawyers make more money because defendants are under more pressure to fight their cases, and therefore willing to pay bigger fees for better defenses. Third, fourth, and fifth offenders are usually indigent.

Criminal-defense lawyers’ vocal opposition to mandatory minima (as well as to the war on drugs) is against the lawyers’ naked self-interest. Why would criminal-defense lawyers oppose criminal-justice policies that make lawyers lots and lots of money? Because the policies are wrong.

(I think that a lot of people can’t conceive of lawyers acting against their own self-interest. More’s the pity.)

3 responses to “Why Do We Oppose Mandatory Minimum Sentences?”

  1. Mandatory minimums remove the jurors from the sentencing equation. Won’t be much longer to we remove them from the process altogether and have computers study the evidence and decide guilt or innocence. We won’t need appeals then, after all, computers don’t make mistakes…

  2. Its unfortunate that often “crime victim advocate” is a euphemism for “advocate against sensible policies and constitutional protections”. Mandatory minimums remove any chance for discretion, which is a great talking point for pols, but a poor policy for justice – just as zero tolerance policies regarding “weapons” create great emotional swell and support on a broad scale, but are terribly problematic once you examine their repercussions.

    I support the legalization of marijuana and several other drugs. Were they legalized, a portion of my practice would likely disappear. I guess this is against my naked pecuniary interest, but I’d take one for the team if the trade off was more sensible drug policies.

  3. Somehow, I do not think that the criminal defense bar will be going hungry if we abolish a few silly crimes. Society might be safer if we abolish drug laws and with them the artificial price boost that leads to various unpleasant thefts.

    However, there will remain plenty of crooks out there. Does one really need to look farther than the County Council and some of their appointees to find sufficient crime?

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