The Problem: Mandatory minimum sentencing laws require judges to give all offenders convicted of a certain crime the same punishment — regardless of whether it fits the crime or the offender or is necessary to keep the public safe. Judges are not allowed to consider any special facts or unique circumstances, the offender’s role, the person’s motive or profit, whether someone was actually injured, and whether the person is likely to reoffend or can be rehabilitated. Mandatory minimum sentences result in lengthy, excessive sentences for many people, leading to injustices, prison crowding, and high costs for taxpayers. 

Solution: One way to reform mandatory minimum sentences is simply to get rid of them — to strike them out of the federal code, or “repeal” them. Repealing mandatory minimum sentences would not give judges full and unfettered discretion to sentence however they wanted to — without mandatory minimums, federal judges would still have to do what they do in all federal criminal cases, which is apply the federal sentencing guidelines to determine the person’s sentence. The federal sentencing guidelines are written by a panel of criminal justice experts and give judges instruction on how to sentence. However, guidelines also provide greater flexibility to take all the facts into consideration and impose a sentence that fits. FAMM supports repealing federal mandatory minimum sentences. 

Pending Bills in the 114th Congress:

H.R. 3489, Mandatory Minimum Reform Act of 2015 (Waters)

This bill, if passed into law, would eliminate federal mandatory minimum drug sentences in 21 U.S.C. code sections 841, 844, 859, 860, 861, and 960 (simple possession, trafficking, and importation). The reforms would NOT be retroactive.

This bill is not a law. To become a law, it must be approved by committee, voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and signed by the President. FAMM does not know if or when the bill might become law. Each year, many bills are introduced in Congress, but very few become laws. 


Chart: Complete list of federal mandatory minimum statutes
Chart: Mandatory minimum drug sentences, 21 U.S.C. § 841