Via The Watch, Ms. Allen is a lawful handgun owner in Pennsylvania. She was pulled over on a traffic stop in New Jersey, a state with some of the nation's toughest gun laws. She volunteered to the police officer that she had a handgun in her possession, apparently not knowing that possession of a handgun without a licence for that state is a felony in New Jersey.
Allen is a black single mother. She has two kids. She has no prior criminal record. Before her arrest, she worked as a phlebobotomist. After she was robbed two times in the span of about a year, she purchased the gun to protect herself and her family. There is zero evidence that Allen intended to use the gun for any other purpose. Yet Allen was arrested. She spent 40 days in jail before she was released on bail. She’s now facing a felony charge that, if convicted, would bring a three-year mandatory minimum prison term.Under the law, she really doesn't have much of a defense. But according to her attorney, the prosecutor has the option of allowing her to enter a diversion program for first time offenders of victimless crimes, but has not explained why he is unwilling to do so in this case.
Mandatory minimum sentencing laws remove all judicial discretion from cases where a reasonable judge could actually use a thing called "judgement". These laws are getting plenty of attention these days in the context of the drug war. The Shaneen Allen case also looks like a situation where prosecutorial discretion could have avoided an unnecessarily harsh charge.
And mandatory minimums are a significant contributor to the US's coveted status as most incarcerated nation on earth.
Everyone loved the piece John Oliver did on the prison industrial complex. Whatever your thoughts on gun control legislation, ridiculous laws like this should be part of the discussion of why mandatory minimums sentencing often has such terrible outcomes.