Stephens Calls on Legislature to Fix Mandatory Minimum Sentencing For Violent Criminals
HARRISBURG—Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) called on the Legislature to act to correct a weakness in the Crimes Code following a Pennsylvania Superior Court ruling that declared many of the state’s mandatory minimum sentencing provisions unconstitutional.

“This decision leaves prosecutors without a major tool in their fight to keep criminals behind bars,” Stephens said. “We must, at the very least, fix and reinstate the mandatory prison sentences for violent crimes committed against children, violent crimes committed with guns, and violent crimes committed against the elderly before the end of the session this year.”

The decision rose from the case of Jason Newman, of North Hills, who was convicted of possessing 60 ounces of cocaine with the intent to distribute it after drug purchases were made from a Glenside apartment in 2010. A gun and ammunition were found within 6-8 feet of the drugs during a search of the apartment.

Because of the gun, the judge imposed a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for violating 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9712.1, which allows prosecutors to seek the minimum sentence if a firearm is found on a drug dealer, an accomplice, or in the vicinity of the contraband.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled a jury, not a judge, must decide that the defendant possessed or controlled a firearm while illegally possessing the drugs before a mandatory minimum can be imposed based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Alleyne v. U.S.

In its decision the court wrote: “We find that it is manifestly the province of the General Assembly to determine what new procedures must be created in order to impose mandatory minimum sentences in Pennsylvania following Alleyne. We cannot do so.”

“We must accept this challenge, and we must act quickly,” Stephens said. “We cannot allow the most heinous criminals to avoid full justice. I urge my colleagues to join me in finding a way to close this gap in the justice system as soon as we return to session and not adjourn until it is resolved.”

Representative Todd Stephens
151st District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: David Foster
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