In order to create statewide sentencing policies, The Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing was created by the General Assembly in 1978. In addition to creating uniformity, these policies also increased the severity for serious crimes and promoted fairer and more uniform sentencing practices for lower level crimes.

According to the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing, the adopted guidelines would be “…considered by the sentencing court in determining the appropriate sentence for defendants who plead guilty or nolo contendere to, or who were found guilty of, felonies and misdemeanors (42 Pa.C.S. §2154).” Since its creation, The House and Senate Judiciary Committees have been designated as the standing committees to review regulations issued by the Commission.

While we know the policies are statewide, what does it really mean to be sentenced in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties?

Types of Sentencing

We will explain the forms of restitution you may be forced to pay or serve later on this page, but it’s important to understand the three forms of sentencing systems which exist in the United States. They include:

  • Determinate: The sentence for a particular crime is determined by the legislature.
  • Indeterminate: This is the first version of sentencing the Pennsylvania government followed, prior to the creation of the Commision on Sentencing. In this form, the trial court has a wider range of alternatives to give to the defendant.
  • Presumptive: The court must follow the sentencing guidelines, or provide a contemporaneous written statement if there is deviation.

Guidelines in Pennsylvania

According to 42 Pa.C.S.A. §9721, a sentence will be imposed after consideration of one or more of the following alternative:

  • An order of probation: The sentence should be for a set amount of time, not exceeding the maximum sentence.
  • A determination of guilt without further penalty: After sentencing, the court shall assist the defendant in leading a law-abiding life.
  • Partial confinement: The sentence should not exceed one-half of the maximum sentence.
  • Total confinement: At the time of sentencing, the court must specify any maximum period and whether the sentence shall commence in a correctional or other institution.
  • A fine

The exception to the above alternatives is when a minimum sentence is provided by law; a person can enter a state drug treatment program; or a person sentenced to total confinement if a mandatory minimum sentence is provided by law when a recidivism risk reduction incentive minimum sentence is available.

In determining if the alternatives are available to a defendant, the court must adhere to the general sentencing principle set forth by law which evaluates the “protection of the public, the gravity of the offense as it relates to the impact on the life of the victim and on the community, and the rehabilitative needs of the defendant.” In addition, the court will also review resentencing guidelines under similar terms.

For felony and misdemeanor sentences as well as modifications to sentences, the court
must make a record and disclose in court at the time of sentencing, the reason the sentence was originally (or currently) imposed.

Should the court wish to stray from the guidelines, a written statement of the reason for the deviation must be made. Failure to comply may result in vacating the sentence and causing a resentencing of the defendant.

Other Guidelines for Sentencing, Statues, Terms

In addition to sentencing procedures and policies, the Commission on Sentencing must adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Restrictive Conditions
  • Fines
  • Resentencing
  • Parole
  • Revocation of Parole

Other sentencing terms defendants should be aware of include:

  • Mandatory restitution: Compensation paid to the victim by the defendant for the damage or injury caused.
  • Mandatory payment of costs: The defendant can be ordered to pay associated costs including the aforementioned and those associated with alternative sentencing.
  • Term of imprisonment: Any sentence given will be set for a specific period.

Appealing a Sentence

When you have been handed a sentence by the court, you can appeal the sentence but there is no guarantee the court will review the sentence unless there is substantial question that the sentence was not appropriate.

The defendant must show why the sentence is in question and meet all procedural requirements as set forth by the law. Given the complexity of these situations, you will need to have a strong legal defense to fight for the fairest sentence.

Sentencing Representation in Scranton, PA

If you are facing a sentence that will keep you away from your family, you need to work with a firm that is committed to protecting you and your future. Attorney Craig Kalinoski can represent you in court to ensure the sentence you receive is fair. Call (570) 207-4000 or use our contact form today to schedule an appointment and discuss your case during a free consultation.

We fight for the rights of our clients in a wide spectrum of practice areas, ranging from criminal defense to family law to civil rights and personal injury.

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