Lawmakers are forever trying to appear “tough on crime,” and have passed a number of unjust laws because of it. Imprisoning people for even longer periods and imposing harsh sentences for even minor crimes results in a large portion of the population being incarcerated at a significant cost, without reducing crime rates. Public and political attitudes are finally starting to shift as the damage of over-incarceration becomes more widely apparent. In fact, President Bill Clinton has now publicly stated he believes the “three strikes” provisions he signed into law were a mistake. Three strikes laws and all mandatory minimum sentencing laws remove the discretion from a judge to impose a penalty appropriate to a given crime. If you are charged with a criminal offense that triggers a mandatory minimum, you can expect a lengthy prison sentence if convicted regardless of any mitigating factors. You must be proactive in defending yourself from any criminal act, but especially one with a minimum sentence. A New Orleans criminal defense law firm can provide you with vigorous legal representation in negotiating a plea deal to face a lesser charge. Your attorney can also assist in fighting for a not guilty verdict. Three Strikes Laws Admittedly an Error With Serious Consequences In 1994, an omnibus crime bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The bill, among other things, established a federal three strikes rule. Three strikes rules on both the federal and state level impose harsh penalties for someone who has committed two prior serious offenses and who is convicted of a third crime. Instead of the individual being sentenced to the normal penalty for the third offense, the defendant must be sentenced to life in prison for the third strike. Hillary and Bill Clinton both praised the three strikes provision at the time the law was passed. Mrs. Clinton touted the fact the law would end the revolving door when someone goes in and out of prison multiple times by making sure violent offenders were “locked up so they could never get out again.” Federal and state three-strikes rules have a different definition of what constitutes a “strike.” The federal law, for example, resulted in a mandatory life sentence for a third violent felony conviction after two prior convictions. Drug crimes could be considered a strike under the 1994 omnibus crime bill. In a state like California, the third strike could be almost any offense, which led to people getting life in jail for bad checks or small-scale thefts, according the New York Times. The California law was changed in 2012, bringing its state law more into line with the federal law stipulating that the “third strike” had to be a violent offense. The problem is, many now believe the federal law is also a problem. Bill Clinton conceded to CNN recently that the federal law was implemented too broadly and cast too wide a net, resulting in too many people going to prison. With so many people in prison, there wasn’t enough money to do things like provide training and education that would reduce the chances of someone reoffending upon release. The law, therefore, was a significant factor in the over-incarceration problem in the U.S. Hopefully, as more attention is paid to the problem of over-incarceration, changes can be made to relax mandatory minimum and three strikes laws and create a more fair justice system. Those accused of a crime, however, must cope within the system we have -- which means the best available option is to find a qualified and experienced criminal defense law firm in New Orleans to vigorously represent your interests.