By District Attorney Ryan Sayers
2023 Vol. 45
At the beginning of this year, I took a number of weeks to explain the Pennsylvania Sentencing Guidelines, Offense Gravity Scores and the Sentencing Matrix.
These documents and charts are how all attorneys, judges and probation departments are to calculate sentences in Pennsylvania.
The current version that we are using in the Commonwealth is the Seventh Edition, and that is the edition that I used at the beginning of this year when explaining different types of sentences.
Every so many years though, the Pennsylvania Sentencing Commission reviews the guidelines and makes proposed amendments.
Over more than a year, this process has occurred and on Jan. 1, 2024, the Eighth Edition of the Sentencing Guidelines will go into effect.
However, these changes will only apply to crimes committed on or after Jan. 1, 2024. For cases that are already in the system, the current edition (the Seventh Edition) will apply to the sentencings in those cases.
There are a number of changes between the Seventh and Eighth Editions, and I will address the major ones over the next couple of weeks.
First and probably one of the biggest change is to the Sentencing Matrix, Offense Gravity Scores and Prior Record Scores.
In the current edition, there are 14 Offense Gravity Scores and eight Prior Record Scores used to calculate sentencing ranges.
The Eighth Edition will have 30 Offense Gravity Scores (plus eight scores relating to murder) and only five Prior Record Scores.
The new ranges suggest probation or ‘restorative sanctions’ for a wider range of lower-level offenses (i.e. Misdemeanor 3 and 2 offenses).
In some cases, the recommendation is for restorative sanctions only and no probation. In regards to incarceration, these ranges are supposed to be more fine tuned for each offense since there are now are larger number of offense gravity scores and ranges to use.
If you have any questions that you would like answered in this weekly article before the end of the year, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ryan Sayers is the elected District Attorney of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.
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