Federal Legislation Regarding the Trial Penalty and Mandatory Minimums
Earlier this year, several members of Congress introduced a bill aimed at adding additional statutory protections for the Constitutional Right to Trial. Entitled the "Right to Trial Act," the legislation would require Judges during sentencing to consider whether an increased sentence was threatened or imposed based on a decision by the defendant to proceed to trial. The legislation would also require judges during sentencing to consider the plea offers and sentences received by co-defendants or similarly situated defendants who plead guilty instead of preceding to trial. Finally, the bill proposes that judges have the discretion to impose a sentence below an established statutory minimum if necessary to protect the constitutional right to trial.
Requiring judges to consider the impact of sentencing differentials when arriving at an appropriate sentence after conviction at trial and creating a safety-valve to help protect against the use of mandatory minimum statutes to coerce pleas of guilty are much needed steps forward in creating a more transparent criminal justice system and helping ensure that defendants are not being punished more harshly simply because they have chosen to exercise one of our most fundamental constitutional rights - the right to trial. This will be an important bill to monitor as it makes its way through Congress.
Excerpts from the bill are below: