New Report Shows Stephens Bill Restoring Mandatory Minimum Sentences is Needed to Stem Opioid Crisis
HARRISBURG—Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) called on the Senate to move quickly to pass his legislation, House Bill 741, following the release of the Montgomery County Investigating Grand Jury Report on the Opioid Crisis.

The grand jury was convened to examine the opioid crisis in Montgomery County, to outline the scope of the human tragedy, and to offer proposals to stem the crisis. Central in the report’s recommendations was to reinstate mandatory minimum sentences.

“This report is a stunning eye-opener, a sobering call to action,” Stephens said. “We must do everything we can to halt the shocking increase in opioid-related deaths.”

“Law enforcement has reported that the absence of mandatory minimum sentences has hurt its ability to reduce the heroin and opioid supply to the community,” the report said. “Moreover, drug dealers are returning to the streets after receiving far less time in jail for their offenses due to the absence of mandatory minimum sentences; thus, they continue to supply and deal heroin and other opioid substances.”

House Bill 741, which would restore mandatory minimum sentences for drug traffickers and other violent offenders, passed the state House in April.

Specifically, the bill would allow for mandatory minimum sentences for drug traffickers, including those trafficking drugs to minors and selling drugs in a drug-free school zones. Other crimes affected include violent offenses committed with firearms, against the elderly or children, or while impersonating a law enforcement officer.

According to the findings, Montgomery County in 2015 experienced a 177 drug-related deaths, an increase of 351 percent since 2002. “The number of accidental drug-related deaths increased even more, by 480 percent, and the number of these accidental overdose victims with opioids in their blood – that is, accidental and fatal opioid overdoses – increased by 533 percent, to 114 victims,” the grand jury reported.

“This is a staggering loss of life,” Stephens said. “We must move quickly to stem this crisis.”

Stephens introduced his legislation to address constitutional issues with Pennsylvania’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws cited by the State Supreme Court in 2015 when it struck down most mandatory minimum sentences in the state claiming they violated a defendant’s procedural right to have a jury determine any fact affecting the minimum or maximum term of incarceration.

Stephens’ bill addresses this by requiring prosecutors to present evidence to jurors to decide whether a mandatory sentencing trigger had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

House Bill 741 is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Representative Todd Stephens
151st District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: David Foster

Share |