Mandatory Minimums Not Allowed for Certain Charges
As of August 20th, certain crimes where a gun is present, including drug convictions and robberies, will no longer automatically trigger mandatory minimum laws. The Pennsylvania Superior Court has ruled that mandatory minimums for drug convictions involving a firearm are unconstitutional.
In this case, Jason Newman was given the chance for a new sentence after being arrested for possession with intent to deliver illegal drugs and other related charges. When a gun was found during a search of Newman’s apartment, these charges were intensified, despite the fact that the gun was not used during the transactions. The appellate court decided to overturn the sentencing based on the fact that the jury did not find the evidence of the gun used in the crime compelling. They only ruled on the drugs charges.
Previously, Pennsylvania law stipulated that simply introducing evidence that an element to lengthen the mandatory minimum was present at the time of a crime would allow judges to be the sole arbiter of whether or not a mandatory minimum applied, usually causing judges to be obligated to give long sentences for what could have been minor convictions. Now, the entire mandatory sentencing construct for gun and drug cases has been deemed unconstitutional by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Defendants in mandatory minimum cases to have better chance of less prison time
Advocates for mandatory minimum reforms are celebrating this decision, as it gives power back to juries to rule logically on the severity of sentencing. Defendants and their attorneys will be allowed to argue all the facts of the case and juries will be empowered to have the influence over the outcomes of cases as originally intended. Anyone who is arrested for drugs charges involving firearms will be able to build a case for the jury to decide free of the threat of mandatory sentencing which was a powerful scare tactic for the prosecution.
Furthermore, since mandatory minimums will no longer automatically apply for these types of drug convictions, defendants have a greater chance of diversion programs or plea bargains. With proper representation, people arrested for minor drug convictions who just happen to have a firearm or who are in an unlucky location will not be automatically condemned to a long sentence. Juries will be able to rule for themselves, and the prosecution will be required to prove all charges.
If you are arrested for a drug charge and a gun or other “trigger” for a greater mandatory minimum, such as being in a school zone, was involved, you are able to fight the application of mandatory minimums with the help of an experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney. Call us today to set up a free consultation to find out how we can help you get the best possible outcome for your case.