A man who fired a warning shot at his daughter's troubled boyfriend and told him "the next one's between your eyes" got 20 years for doing it—and by law has to serve every day of the sentence, CBS News reports. "And I was just like, 'What?'" says Florida resident Lee Wollard, who insists he was defending his family. "You know, the blood just drained out of my head. I almost passed out." But the charges against Wollard were serious: child endangerment, aggravated assault, and shooting into a building with a firearm. He was also swept up in a US legal movement known as mandatory minimum sentencing, which appeared in the late 1980s as a way to lock up drug dealers and customers, including first offenders, in America's "war on drugs."
Activists say it has led to prison overcrowding and cases that strike some as extreme—like the music producer with no criminal record who got 55 years for selling marijuana to cops while carrying a firearm, or a 19-year-old in Texas who may face 20 years over a tray of hash brownies. But supporters argue that the threat of harsh sentences enables prosecutors to persuade suspects to plea bargain rather than enter costly, time-consuming trials. The debate is ongoing, as Maine Gov. Paul LePage argues for mandatory sentencing in domestic violence cases, the Bangor Daily News reports, and California quietly nixes a mandatory 90-day jail term for those under the influence of narcotics, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Even Florida ended its current penalty for firing warning shots, but too late for Wollard. "Everything, everything is gone," he says. (Read more mandatory minimums stories.)