Some things are simply hard to explain.
Why is there something rather than nothing?
How did self-conscious beings arise out of lifeless star dust?
And, how can prosecutors be so cold-hearted?
To help answer question number three, above, we’re going to review a recent case. To mentally prep you, let’s start with some stretching exercises. For sentencing purposes, assume that drugs are bad, and selling them is even worse. Contrary to what you’ve seen on TV, most of the drug sales force out there consist of poor people trying to support their habit. They don’t own fast cars or 22″ rims. And, it’s probably a myth that they’re “selling” anything. Philosopher Chris Rock argues that no one really “sells” drugs–drugs sell themselves. If you can get someone to buy life insurance, you’re a sales person with real sales skills.
Anyway, our true story of the day involves a single mother of three young children, and she was caught selling drugs in order to support her addiction. State v. Sawyer, 2016 Fla. App. LEXIS 17723 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016). The penalties facing Ms. Sawyer were steep. She scored a minimum prison term of 39 months, a maximum sentence of 15 years prison. But, does minimum really mean minimum? Well, not really, ’cause you know sometimes words have two meanings’, as Robert Plant would sing.
Obviously, Ms. Sawyer’s defense attorney wanted the judge to give her something less than the minimum sentence, but to do that she would have to qualify for a downward departure. I know, boring legal terminology just a few sentences into this. Sorry. And, this mandatory prison term clouds other important issues, like, does Ms. Sawyer deserve over three years in prison? What will that cost taxpayers? Why wouldn’t we address Ms. Sawyer’s addiction, and have her ready to raise her three kids? Isn’t it cheaper for the taxpayers, and better for society?
These questions were irrelevant to the prosecutor. The knee-jerk reaction to someone scoring prison is, “give them the prison time” (you know that when your knee jerks your brain isn’t even processing information). Some folks would say that your success in life is directly related to the number of uncomfortable conversations you are willing to have. I’ve had plenty of these uncomfortable conversations with prosecutors unwilling to think these matters through. Why think? The legislature has mandated a prison term, so we don’t have to give any thought to this, right? Well, we’re going to do some thinking here. Was Ms. Sawyer’s attorney able to get her to qualify for less than 39 months via a downward departure? Continue Reading