Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

Los Angeles Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California

In California, many crimes have mandatory minimum sentences. This means that, no matter the circumstances of the crime, you must serve a certain amount of jail time or be subjected to a certain penalty no matter what—even if it was your first offense or you were barely involved in the crime. Judges cannot decrease the punishment even for extenuating circumstances. However, if you work with the right attorney on your case, there are often ways to get around this.

A Los Angeles defense attorney at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP can help you get your crime charged as a misdemeanor rather than a felony if the facts of your case place the offense somewhere between the two. Depending on your criminal history and the facts of the case, you may be able to get off on a lighter sentence. Each case is unique, and we will work with you directly to come up with the defense that sets you up for the best outcome.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to learn more.

How Sentencing Works in California

Generally, a judge decides a defendant’s punishment after they plead guilty or are found guilty at trial. Punishments should be proportional to the crime, and judges have legal guidelines in place to help them choose the sentence that best matches the offense. Sentences can also determined through a negotiated agreement with the prosecutors on the case, this is called a “plea agreement.”

Judges can consider any circumstance related to your case, such as:

  • Whether you were the main offender or an accessory
  • Whether you hurt someone or actively tried to avoid hurting anyone
  • Your mental state at the time of the crime

However, if your crime falls under California’s mandatory minimum sentencing law, the judge has less of an influence on your punishment because there are already rules in place. This means that if you plead guilty or are found guilty, you will be subject to at least the minimum sentence set by law. The judge cannot give out a shorter or more lenient sentence—even if the specifics of your case would otherwise allow for it.

There are three main types of criminal offenses: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. All three include crimes that are subject to mandatory minimum sentencing in California.

How Much of Your Sentence Do You Serve in California?

In California, the time you serve in prison or jail depends on various factors, including the specific offense you were convicted of, your criminal history, and your behavior while incarcerated. California uses a complex "good time credits" and "work time credits" system to determine how much of your sentence you will serve.

Under California law, most inmates can earn good time credits for good behavior, participation in rehabilitation programs, and other positive actions. These credits can reduce the length of your sentence by up to one-third. In addition, inmates who work in specific jobs or participate in certain vocational or educational programs may be eligible to earn work time credits, which can further reduce their sentence.

However, it is essential to note that not all inmates are eligible for a good time or work time credits. Inmates convicted of certain violent or severe offenses may be ineligible or required to serve a more extended portion of their sentence before becoming eligible.

In general, the amount of time you will serve in California will depend on various factors and can vary widely from case to case. If you have been convicted of a crime in California, it is essential to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to understand your rights and options and to determine the best course of action for your situation.

“Wobbler” Offenses

California law has a provision for what is known as “wobbler” offenses. These are crimes that can potentially be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of the case and the criminal history of the defendant. Many crimes in Los Angeles count as wobblers, so it is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney who can argue that your crime should be charged as a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

Contact us today to get the legal defense you deserve.


Misdemeanors are more serious than infractions but are less severe than felonies.

Examples of misdemeanors include:

  • Disorderly conduct
  • Driving under the influence of drug or alcohol (DUI)
  • Domestic violence
  • Petty theft
  • Shoplifting
  • Probation violation
  • Public drunkenness
  • Simple assault or battery
  • Driving with a suspended license
  • Possession of drugs like cocaine and heroin for personal use

Under California law, the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor cannot be more than one year in county jail. However, some misdemeanors have a maximum jail sentence that is less than a year.


Felonies are the most serious offenses according to California law. There are three terms an offender can be punished with if convicted with a crime in California—high-term sentence, mid-term sentence, and low-term sentence. Each crime has three possible punishments based on its severity—for instance, a two-year, four-year, or six-year sentence. It is up to the judge to decide which specific sentence to choose.Someone convicted of a felony can also be given probation, in which case they could receive one year or less of jail, or even no jail at all.

Examples of felonies include:

  • Assault
  • Domestic violence
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Robbery

California also has something called the “Three Strikes Law” which means that anyone convicted of a serious or violent felony, having already been convicted of two other serious or violent felonies, can be sentenced to prison for 25 years to life.

Choose Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP

Why choose us? Our attorneys are collaborative and comprehensive—we will work together not only as a team to come up with great tactics on your behalf, but we will also work by your side to craft the defense that works best for you. The specifics of your case and life are essential to how we build a defense that sets you up for the best possible future moving forward.

“We are blessed to have you for our lawyer and will highly recommend you with your professional and educated advice!”

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