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Canada Must Take Notice as U.S. Turns Away from Mandatory Minimums

I have written a fair bit about mandatory minimum sentencing and how the amendments to the Criminal Code will not deter crime.  Taking the power out of the hands of Judges to sentence offenders appropriately will just result in disproportionate sentences and overcrowd the prison system.  It is based on the assumption that punishment can actually work at deterring crime.

The United States is beginning to realize that minimum sentences just don’t make sense.  Hopefully Canada will do the same thing.  I say this fully aware that a minimum sentence in the U.S., which could mean decades in prison, may mean something vastly different than it means in Canada.  As stated in this editorial from the Globe and Mail, United States Attorney General Eric Holder stated earlier this week:  “These sentences cost taxpayers far too much money, don’t reduce recidivism, haven’t won the drug war and are fundamentally unjust and destructive to communities”.  Holder went on to state:  “Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law-enforcement reason”.

In Canada, one is looking at six months in jail for growing six marijuana plants, a sentence which many Judges may not impose but-for this minimum.

Appellate courts will likely be hearing litigation over the constitutionality of such minimums for years to come.  The Ontario Court of Appeal is expected to release their decision in R. v. Smickle, the case where Justice Anne Molloy struck-down the mandatory minimum three-year sentence for first-time firearm possession as being unconstitutional, sometime shortly.  Smickle will almost certainly make its way to the Supreme Court.

Mandatory minimums need to go.

This blog post was written by Toronto Criminal Lawyer Adam Goodman. Adam can be reached at 416-477-6793 or by email at adam@aglaw.ca.