Circumventing Mandatory Minimum Sentences Through Legal Representation – A Mixed Methods Study of Drunk Driving Offences

44 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2023 Last revised: 13 Apr 2023

See all articles by Jonathan Hasson

Jonathan Hasson

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law, Centre for Criminology; University of Haifa - Faculty of Law

Abraham Tennenbaum

University of Maryland

Date Written: February 2, 2023

Abstract

Most common law nations impose minimum sentences for drunk driving. Israel introduced a mandatory minimum law in 1995 requiring a two–year license disqualification regardless of intoxication level. In theory, the new law allows minimal room for deviation. In practice, however, our study demonstrates that the law in action has diverged significantly from “blackletter law.” Through an integrated historical, quantitative, and qualitative analysis that follows the law from its inception to the present day, we explore the root causes of this deviation and the mechanisms of circumvention. Based on quantitative data collected on drunk driving cases between 2008 and 2022 and a survey of professionals specializing in traffic law, we highlight how the law’s perceived harshness has contributed to plea bargains becoming the normative means of circumventing the law. This circumvention undermines the law’s original intention, that is, uniformity, proportionality, and equity in sentencing. Multiple variables including appearances in court, legal representation, jurisdiction, and the judge’s identity result in comparably guilty defendants receiving different sentences. Given these disparities, we propose replacing the current minimum sentence with a graduated minimum based on intoxication levels; limiting prosecutorial and judicial discretion; and providing court date reminders and public counsel to minimize harm to vulnerable populations.

Keywords: Plea bargaining, sentencing data analysis, mandatory minimum sentences, legal representation, blood alcohol concentration, drunk driving law, license disqualification, sentencing disparity

Suggested Citation

Hasson, Jonathan and Tennenbaum, Abraham, Circumventing Mandatory Minimum Sentences Through Legal Representation – A Mixed Methods Study of Drunk Driving Offences (February 2, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4346100 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4346100

Jonathan Hasson (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law, Centre for Criminology ( email )

Manor Road Building
Manor Road
Oxford, OX1 3UQ
United Kingdom

University of Haifa - Faculty of Law ( email )

Abraham Tennenbaum

University of Maryland

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