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Mandatory Minimum, Mandatory Minimum Sentence

  • In many cases, a judge has little or no discretion in sentencing. Judges' hands are often tied by legal requirements that impose lower limits on sentences—known as mandatory minimum sentences or simply mandatory minimums—when certain conditions are present. When a mandatory minimum is required, a judge may not legally grant a defendant mercy with less time in prison even if extenuating circumstances mean that the required sentence is unjustly harsh in the case at hand.

Meet and Plead, Meet 'Em and Plead 'Em

  • This phrase refers to a mentality or practice among public defenders in which attorneys habitually meet clients and immediately encourage them to forfeit their right to trial by jury and accept a plea bargain. This situation is largely a result of overworked attorneys being assigned to represent indigent clients in hundreds to thousands of cases per year. As a result, it becomes impossible for them to thoroughly investigate, prepare for, and rigorously defend their clients in all of their cases.

Mens Rea

  • Mens rea is a Latin phrase that directly translates as a "guilty mind". In the United States legal system, it refers to the element of criminal intent that is legally required for conviction of many crimes. This concept distinguishes between people who purposely, recklessly, or negligently committed an unjust act and those who committed the same act innocently, such as accidentally, for justifiable reasons, or without knowledge that the action was was unlawful.


  • A mistrial is one that is not completed, but is instead halted and declared invalid, usually before a verdict is delivered. Mistrials may occur for a variety of reasons.

    For example, the judge may determine that a hung jury will not be able to resolve its differences through further deliberation and declare a mistrial. Hung juries, however, are only one possible reason for a mistrial. Mistrials may also be declared due to misconduct on the part of an attorney or juror; comments made in front of the jury that would make it unfair to continue the trial with the same jury; unavailability of a key participant in the trial due to illness, injury, or death; or other reasons.



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