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Are mandatory minimums the way to stop sexual assault?

by | Sep 2, 2016 | Sex Offenses |

In our last post, we discussed proposed changes to one state’s laws in light of the claims made against comedian Bill Cosby. Now, legislators in that same state have made yet another change to state laws in light of the sex charges filed against Brock Turner.

Readers of this blog may be aware of Turner’s case, as it made national headlines and caused quite a lot of controversy. Essentially, the college student was convicted of sexually assaulting another student and received a six-month jail sentence, of which he served just three months. Since then, state lawmakers in California decided to close a loophole that allowed Turner to avoid a heftier sentence.

According to reports, the changes address the fact that state law allows probation in cases involving sexual assault without the use of force. This means that if a victim is unconscious and no force is necessary, probation can be ordered and there is no mandatory sentencing in place.

In Florida, the laws allow judges to sentence a person convicted of sexual battery to up to 15 years in prison. In cases where the victim was physically unable to resist, the judge can increase that sentence to up to 30 years. However, there is no mandatory minimum requirement.

This divisive case has raised the question of whether mandatory minimums are effective. After all, there are mandatory minimums in place for drug-related crimes, and that has come under intense scrutiny over the years. Critics say that the mandatory minimums do little more than contribute to overcrowding in jails, and that enforcing them is doing more harm than good.

It will be interesting to see if these same arguments are made in light of these recent changes, especially if other states adopt similar sentencing guidelines.

While it may make people feel better to increase penalties for people convicted of rape or sexual assault, especially after a case that caused so much outrage, it is important not to lose sight of the bigger picture. Changing laws and enforcing mandatory minimums in response to a specific case will have a considerable impact that can be impossible to predict, and such actions typically won’t do anything to change the case that prompted them.

What do you think?