By District Attorney Ryan Sayers
2023 Vol. 4
Over the past couple weeks, we have discussed how to calculate a person’s Prior Record Score and find the Offense Gravity Score.
Today, we head back to the Pennsylvania Sentencing Matrix to put it all together as if a person is at Sentencing Court, and discuss minimum sentences, maximum sentencings, and places of incarceration.
In Pennsylvania, the minimum sentence is based on the guideline ranges that are set forth in the Pennsylvania Sentencing Matrix, which we have discussed.
The maximums, on the other hand, have two constraints. First, the maximum has to be at least double the minimum. Second, each grade of a crime has a maximum that the court cannot exceed.
The maximums for each are as follows:
- Felony 1 – 20 years
- Felony 2 – 10 years
- Felony 3 – 7 years
- Misdemeanor 1 – 5 years
- Misdemeanor 2 – 2 years
- Misdemeanor 3 – 1 year
The other factor for the judge to consider at sentencing is place of incarceration.
In Pennsylvania, if the maximum sentence is over two years for any single charge, then the person will serve their sentence at a state prison and be monitored by the State Parole Board.
However, if the sentence is anything less than two years, then the person will serve their time in the Clearfield County Jail and be monitored by the Clearfield County Adult Probation Department.
So let us go back to John and Jane Doe from last week’s article. John and Jane have a child together and get charged with Endangering the Welfare of Children (Misdemeanor 1)(OGS 5) due to their drug use in the home.
Jane Doe goes to trial and is found guilty. John Doe enters a plea to six months incarceration with maximum to the judge. At sentencing, the judge has the following options based on the guidelines:
Jane Doe with a Prior Record Score of one is looking at between 1–12 months in jail and a maximum of up to 5 years.
It is likely that the recommendation from the probation department will give the judge two options for either a county jail sentence or a state prison sentence.
Depending on different factors (to include remorse, attendance at drug rehab prior to sentencing, separation from John Doe because he was the drug influence, etc.), it is possible that Jane would get a minimum of one month with a maximum of 18 months incarceration.
This means that she would serve the minimum in the Clearfield County Jail and then be on probation for the remainder of the sentence.
John Doe, on the other hand, opted for a plea agreement to six months incarceration. His prior record score is a three and his range would be a minimum of 6-16 months with the same maximum of five years.
In this situation, John Doe (who Jane Doe blamed for bringing the drugs into the home) could potentially receive a state sentence of six months to 2 years in state prison.
It could be up to five years, but judges typically do not give the maximum period of probation/parole.
Now that we have discussed Offense Gravity Scores and Prior Record Scores, next week I will return to the Pennsylvania Sentencing Matrix to explain sentencing ranges, minimum and maximum sentences and places of incarceration.
These first few articles about the Sentencing Guidelines gives us a foundation for multiple other topics that will be discussed throughout the year to include victims input on cases, plea negotiations, case load and jury trials.
I touched on it briefly in this article, but next week I will begin a multi-week discussion on plea negotiation and caseload management.
Ryan Sayers is the elected District Attorney of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.
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