When you have been charged with a criminal offense in Pennsylvania, there are many concerns that may occupy your mind. One of those concerns may be the possible punishment you are facing. The Pennsylvania Commission of Sentencing has established guidelines for trial judges to follow in the Commonwealth in order to help them determine proper sentencing for various criminal offenses. The Pennsylvania Gravity Score is one important metric established by the commission that helps judges evaluate the severity of a crime. Based on this score, a judge may impose a recommended sentence upon the convicted offender.
An experienced and reliable defense attorney will work vigorously to make sure the judge and jury understand any and all mitigating facts that can lead to a reduced sentence. If you have been charged with a criminal offense, your rights are at stake and you need the best defense to secure them. Our Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyers at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC will fight for you using the strongest defense available to get your charges reduced or dismissed if possible so you can move forward with your life.
The Pennsylvania Gravity Score
The Pennsylvania Gravity Score, or otherwise referred to as an Offense Gravity Score (OGS), is assigned to every criminal offense in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. More serious offenses are assigned higher OGS numbers. This score gives the presiding judge a numerical standard by which to evaluate the seriousness of the crime for which the defendant has been convicted.
Scores on the OGS range from the low-end (1), which are misdemeanors all the way up to (14), which involve crimes of murder. This scoring system has been established to help ensure that defendants convicted of more serious crimes receive longer sentences and greater punishment than those convicted of less serious offenses.
Criminal Sentencing in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania judge presiding over your case and responsible for imposing a sentence with respect to your conviction will take into account the Pennsylvania Gravity Score connected with your offense as well as your Prior Record Score (PRS). Your PRS is a numerical representation that reflects your criminal history. It is based on the number and type of any prior adult or juvenile convictions present on your record.
The Pennsylvania Commission of Sentencing has established eight PRS categories. These are: zero through five, repeat violent offenders, and Felony One and Felony Two repeat offenders. Each crime is assigned a number of record points that apply to the conviction. Less serious misdemeanor offenses do not garner a PRS; however, two prior misdemeanor convictions will qualify for one PRS point.
The guidelines for sentencing do not specify a single recommended sentence to be imposed based on the OGS and PRS scores. They rather provide an average sentence range for the judge to consider when determining the sentence to impose.
When judges are determining a sentence for a particular crime, they often use a chart that includes the OGS and PRS scores in matrix form. The matrix provides sentencing guidelines based on the combination of both scores. For instance, someone with a more serious Prior Record Score will qualify for a longer sentence than someone who has committed the same crime but has a less serious prior criminal record.
Another important fact about PA sentencing law is that judges in the state may not veer from the minimum and maximum sentence penalties established by state law. Judges can, however, increase or decrease the length of a recommended sentence based on aggravating and mitigating factors.
Mitigating and Aggravating Factors
Mitigating factors are those aspects related to you as a defendant that may serve to lessen your particular recommended sentence. Some of these factors can include:
- A consistent record of employment
- Cooperation with the police
- Pleading guilty to the crime
- Supportive family members
- Sincere remorse
- Attempts to further your education
- Having zero prior criminal convictions
Aggravating factors are those elements that reflect poorly on you as a defendant and that may lead to you receiving a longer sentence than that recommended by the Pennsylvania Gravity Score and Prior Record Score combination. These factors can include:
- An inconsistent or nonexistent record of employment
- Failure to cooperate with the police
- Lack of effort to further your education
- Violent history
- Long criminal record
- A lack of sincere remorse for your crime
What Happens at My Sentencing?
Your sentencing hearing will be scheduled once you plead guilty to the charges against you. Like a trial, this hearing will happen in an open court, meaning the public can attend the hearing. The defendant, their attorney, and the district attorney will all be present.
If you didn’t take a plea, then the prosecution may take extra time to reiterate the facts of the case and point out important details of the case, which sometimes includes a Victim Personal Statement. The defense can counter these arguments with explanations for the defendant’s actions in hopes of receiving a lighter sentence.
The hearings themselves are generally pretty speedy, especially if a plea deal was reached before the hearing. However, the seriousness of the crime may compel the prosecution to make these extra arguments for or against the probation officer’s recommendations, especially if the judge can legally administer a more serious punishment in spite of the plea deal.
Contact an Experienced Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Lawyer
Being charged with a crime doesn’t have to be the end of your life as you know it. By working with a knowledgeable and aggressive criminal defense attorney, you can fight for a favorable outcome like a reduction, dismissal, or clearing your name in court. If a conviction is likely, we can also pursue the best possible sentence so you can move on with your life sooner.
Here at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we take pride in helping our clients navigate these tricky criminal proceedings. Give us a call today at (412) 281-2146 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free and confidential consultation.