In response to a rash of recent high-profile hit-and-run deaths in Miami-Dade County, a group of citizens is calling for the legislature to increase mandatory minimum penalties for those who are involved in fatal traffic crashes and then leave the scene.
Currently, leaving the scene of an accident causing death is a first-degree felony punishable by 30 years in prison. The mandatory minimum is two-years in state prison.
This group of citizens is proposing a seven-year mandatory minimum sentence for a leaving the scene of an accident causing death charge. If alcohol is involved, the group suggests a ten-year mandatory minimum. DUI manslaughter - whether someone has left the scene of the crash or not - presently carries a four-year mandatory minimum term.
No word so far on how much progress this push for increased penalties has made. However, while I am certainly not supporting the idea of leaving the scene of a lethal crash, nothing good comes of mandatory minimums. First and foremost, there is no correlation between mandatory prison sentences and crime reduction. And secondly, mandatory sentencing requires judges to treat all offenders exactly the same. Specific facts and circumstances surrounding each offense and offender become irrelevant. The mandatory minimum sentence is the same for all.
Some offenders may deserve lengthy prison sentences. Others may deserve probation. A judge with discretion could impose either one. However, a mandatory minimum sentence is a mandate from the legislature requiring the judge to impose a predetermined penalty.