Mandatory Minimum Sentencesin Mississippi

State Overview

In 2008, Tameka Drummer was arrested for possession of less than two ounces of marijuana. While her marijuana usage would be legal activity in some states, or a misdemeanor in others, in Mississippi Tameka Drummer was sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole. Drummer was sentenced under Mississippi’s habitual enhancement, which applies harsh mandatory minimum sentences to those with previous criminal records, even for relatively minor offenses.

While Mississippi technically imposes mandatory minimums for drug offenses, judges have the ability to suspend sentences in most instances. Mississippi’s harshest mandatory minimum is its habitual enhancement which imposes long sentences on relatively minor offenses and removes judicial flexibility from the sentencing process. While most sentences don’t include mandatory minimums, the allowable sentencing ranges are high, leading to overall longer sentences than in other states. Mississippi could improve these policies by eliminating habitual enhancements in most cases, removing mandatory minimums for drug offenses to reflect the judicial ability to suspend sentences completely, and lowering maximum sentencing ranges to reflect the seriousness of offenses.


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Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentencing

Mississippi technically imposes minimum sentences on drug offenses, applying a sentencing range to drug offenses based on the amount of drugs involved. Judges have the ability to suspend sentences, up to 100%, in their discretion, and this prevents many of the worst outcomes from mandatory minimum sentences. However, most cases never make it to trial. The majority of criminal cases are resolved with a plea deal, where defendants are incentivized to plea guilty rather than risk a potentially higher sentence at trial. Mississippi’s law could be improved by adjusting the minimum sentencing range for drug offenses to zero, to ensure that defendants are treated equally throughout the sentencing process.

30/50 points

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Three Strikes Laws

Mississippi’s regressive habitual enhancement applies life sentences to individuals with two previous criminal offenses in their past, if one was a crime of violence, regardless of the nature of their current offense. It also applies a mandatory maximum sentence to anyone charged with their third felony offense, regardless of the nature of the offenses and without consideration for any mitigating factors.

0/30 points

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Judicial Flexibility

Mississippi’s judges have wide latitude to suspend sentences, up to 100%, in their discretion, except in the cases of individuals charged with habitual offenses.

10/20 points