Pennsylvania and all other states have the authority to structure their statutes as the legislature sees fit, but they are structured similarly with respect to sentencing guidelines. Less serious crimes are classified as misdemeanors and only punishable by incarceration up to one year in a city or county facility. More serious crimes are classified as felonies and can carry a minimum of one year with more incarceration established according to increasing felony categories for more serious crimes. All convictions can also carry additional fines or probation in some instances.
Fines are usually the first line of punishment following a conviction. Most lower-level fines are assessed according to the level of charge and primarily apply to misdemeanors. However, there are some misdemeanor crimes that will result in a multiple punishment of a significant fine plus an incarceration term less than one year, such as a misdemeanor DUI conviction. Fines can also be issued in felony cases as well, and they are usually extensive when both a fine and a felony jail sentence are both handed down without a solid criminal defense.
Incarceration typically is assigned based on the material facts of a charge. Incarceration for misdemeanors is always served in local jail facilities, and many times a jail term is either suspended in lieu of a substantial fine or the defendant is sentenced to probation for a specific period under supervision of a probation officer following an effective criminal defense argument. Felonies are a completely different matter, as even lower class felonies alone carry one to five years in a Pennsylvania state correctional facility.
Very serious felony crimes will typically carry very serious and long incarceration sentencing. Higher classifications of crimes range in sentencing from 5-10 years, 10-15 years, and 20 years and upwards to a death sentence for aggravated homicide in egregious cases.