Avoiding State Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Clients facing criminal charges in Oregon courts are often confronted with the threat of serving a mandatory minimum sentence upon conviction. Mandatory Minimum sentences are commonly charged in the following types of cases:

Measure 11 offenses - Measure 11 Offenses are generally considered crimes of violence and range from serious assaults (Assault in the First and Second Degree) to Sexual offenses and homicide. Mandatory minimum sentences under Measure 11 range from 70 months to life in prison.

Firearms offenses - Mandatory minimum sentences can be triggered in cases where a person has prior criminal convictions and is accused of possession or use of a gun during the commission of another offense. These mandatory minimum sentences can also range from five to thirty years in prison.

Drug Offenses - Mandatory minimum prison sentences are becoming more commonplace in Oregon. These mandatory minimum sentences are triggered by certain quantities of drugs; in particular, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and ecstasy. These minimum sentences can range from 16 to 130 months in prison.

Repeat Property Offenses - In serious property crime cases, these mandatory minimums may go into play after only a second offense. In minor property crime cases, such as small shoplifting cases, the mandatory minimums may not go into play until after the offense is repeated multiple times. These minimum sentences can range from 13 to 19 months in prison.

Attacking the application of a potential mandatory minimum sentence must be undertaken early in the representation of the client.

The attorneys at Kohlmetz, Steen & Hanrahan, P.C have the knowledge and experience necessary to defend persons facing charges involving mandatory minimum sentences. Some ways in which we seek to avoid the application of such sentences are:

  1. Aggressively defend the case and win at trial
  2. Aggressively and creatively challenge the government's evidence in the case in an effort to win a reduced charge.
  3. Aggressively and creatively challenge the client's prior criminal history in an effort to prevent application of the mandatory minimum sentence.

In some cases, application of the mandatory minimum sentence cannot be avoided in advance of trial. Generally there are three ways to avoid the application of the mandatory minimum in these instances:

  1. The "Measure 11 escape clause" law for first time offenders ; and
  2. Creative negotiations with the District Attorney
  3. Creative sentencing arguments

In order to avoid an otherwise mandatory minimum Measure 11 sentence a client must meet the stringent requirements of the Measure 11 escape clause law. Generally they must be first time offenders convicted of a second degree offense who can demonstrate to the court that there are "substantial and compelling" reasons for not imposing the minimum sentence in their case.

Creative negotiations with the district attorney take many forms, limited only by the client's own directives, goals and the underlying facts of the case itself. Unlike in federal court it is not always necessary to "cooperate" with the authorities in order to successfully negotiate out of a mandatory minimum sentence.

Oregon law still gives judges some, albeit very limited discretion in imposing otherwise mandatory minimum sentences. These opportunities are few and far between but the lawyers at Kohlmetz, Steen & Hanrahan, P.C. know when they may be applied for effectively

When the state or federal prosecutor is charging you with an offense that carries a mandatory minimum sentence, it's important to immediately contact an experienced Oregon criminal defense lawyer.

At Kohlmetz, Steen & Hanrahan, P.C., We have developed strategies and tactics over the years in which we have been successful in avoiding the application of certain mandatory minimum sentences. We have convinced both federal and state prosecutors to take mandatory minimums off the table. And we have also convinced both federal and state judges not to impose the mandatory minimum because of a variety of reasons such as:

  • Constitutionality of the mandatory minimum law, both in general and as applied to the particular case at hand,
  • Lack of legislative intent to apply the minimum sentence to a particular type of case or individual
  • Failure of the government to provide timely notice of the application of mandatory minimums
  • Unconstitutional or defective prior convictions
  • More appropriate lesser charges apply to the client's conduct,
  • The client qualifies for an exception to the mandatory minimum sentence.

If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime that carries a potential mandatory minimum sentence you need the experienced attorneys of Kohlmetz, Steen & Hanrahan, P.C. on your side.