An overview of Pennsylvania sentencing law

by | May 26, 2015 | Criminal Defense

The sentencing portion of a criminal case can be confusing to defendants. Of course, his or her defense attorney will be on hand to explain salient points and answer questions, but it never hurts to learn a little about the process before it is time for sentencing.

Naturally, every criminal defense attorney wants to avoid a conviction whenever possible, but sometimes convictions do occur, often for lesser charges than were originally leveraged. The maximum penalty handed down for 1st degree felony crimes is 20 years imprisonment and a fine of $25,000. By contrast, the maximum penalty handed down for a 3rd degree misdemeanor crime is up to a year imprisonment and a fine of $300 to $2,500.

Pennsylvania uses a score system to pass down sentences in criminal cases. It is important to note that each crime in Pennsylvania is given a point value. This value is a crucial factor in how courts determine the score used to sentence an individual.

Here are the two main score factors and what they mean:

The offense gravity score: This is simply a point-based assessment of the seriousness of the alleged crime. Rape for example carries an offense gravity score of 11. The higher the point value, the higher an offense gravity score will be.

Prior Record Score: Like most states, Pennsylvania sentencing law factors in prior offense information to use for sentencing. This means if the defendant has a criminal background, he or she will be assigned a score based on the nature, frequency and location of any prior offenses.

There are other elements a judge will use to determine the sentence of a convicted defendant, but hopefully the basic score information provided here will help defendants know what to expect throughout sentencing. You can find out more through a careful review of our web page on Pennsylvania sentencing law.