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Pennsylvania State Sentencing Guidelines

The PA Sentencing Guidelines provide a state court with direction on how an offender is to be sentenced.

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Criminal Defense Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

A judge of the court of common pleas of Pennsylvania does not randomly determine a sentence for an individual convicted of a specific crime.  Rather, a judge uses "sentencing guidelines" that were developed by an 11 person commission established by the PA General Assembly, known a the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing.  The Commission sets for the parameters for a judge to use when determining how a defendant will be sentenced.  The current Guidelines, 6th edition, apply to felony and misdemeanor offenses committed on or after June 3, 2005.

How do Guidelines work?

The Sentencing Guidelines are based upon the assessment of an 'Offense Gravity Score' (OGS) to all criminal offenses (may be in Crimes Code, Drug Act, Fish and Game Code or the PA Vehicle Code).  An individual offense will have a score ranging from one (1) to fourteen (14); the higher the score the more severe the penalty.  An individual will also have a 'Prior Record Score' (PRS) ranging from one (1) to five (5); again the higher the score the more severe the penalty.  Mandatory sentences called for by a certain crime take precedence over the guideline range sentence.  However, to the extent that the guidelines exceed the mandatory minimum, the judge may go higher than the mandatory sentence.

An individual's offense is scored from a list of pre-determined scores.  Their prior record is looked at and will determine what their current OGS will be.  A range of sentences is provided to the court, known as a "Basic Sentencing Matrix."  The court will then determine whether a particular defendant should receive a standard range, a mitigated or an aggravated range sentence.  The court should announce in open court what the proposed sentence established by the Guidelines are and what sentence they are going to impose.  They should also state the reason for giving a defendant a sentence above or below the standard range.

It is very important that you and your attorney both go over your prior record, if any, as well as look at the current offenses for which you are charged.  Any mistakes in your proper identity, such as in your social security number, PA driver's license number or date of birth, may skew the prior record score.  Your attorney should double check the sentencing guidelines with you to make sure that the Commonwealth has computed your guidelines properly.

If you have questions about your offense and the proposed sentence that you are to receive, you should contact experienced counsel to assist you.  You may contact Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free or email us today.

1 Comment

I have this judge in Bradford county and his name is judge Smith he is set to step down in feb. The other day I was in court with my future husband who was sentence to a six month in county later on that night I had been thinking then notice that he didn't follow the guidelines set froth by the state of Pennsylvania and had already had his mind made up before we. even walked in to the court room and his lawyer who is worker for the state never even tried to help am carring twins am high pregnancy I have lost two children when in the last two years am on bed rest and needed to have someone to take care of me I have been pulled out of work and now have no income take care of myself nor my child he was the only one that was able to work I can't even go to the store without being pushed around in a wheelchair I can't even take a shower without supervision he was the only one that could help me because my parents both have had spinal surgery done and are unable to help with my care all am looking for someone to look past the charges and to see the person as I do under him as a caregiver and soon to be father. when we were back in school he had to be in special classes due to reading and writing and not understand his work growing he has had a hard life growing due to a lack of a father a mother without stable life going to one home to another finally having his grandfather taking him at the age of 16 and living with them until graduation please try to understand the hard life that he has had and to help him help me with our unborn children that I can lose at any point in time his name is Edward Adams and mine is Crystal Leonard please help us

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