Mandatory drug sentences have been ruled unconsitutional by a 3-2 decision in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that the mandatory minimum sentences such as the school zone, which have long been used by prosecutors to force individuals to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit, has been ruled unconstitutional. The case of Commonwealth v. Hopkins, decided on June 16, 2015 has greatly reduced the unfettered power of the District Attorney.
A mandatory minimum sentence effectively gives the prosecutor sentencing discretion. If you are a college student giving marijuana to your roommate in your dorm room, you are a drug dealer. Not only are you a drug dealer, you are dealing drugs in a school zone. Before the Supreme Court, you were facing a mandatory minimum sentence of two years incarceration in a state correctional facility. You were facing the same mandatory minimum as a gang member selling crack cocaine to an 8th grader at his or her playground.
Prosecutors were aware that the above-scenario was wrong, so what they would say to our young college student something along the lines of “plead guilty to possession with intent to deliver and we will recommend a sentence of 90 days incarceration in a county facility.” Never mind the horrible civil consequences of taking a college student and effectively labeling him or her a drug dealer for the rest of their lives, most college students (or anyone) would rather do 90 days in jail than 2 years incarceration.
What was worse, is if the police potentially violated the civil rights of our young college student, and our hero decided to dare fight the charges against him, the District Attorney may decide to simply “withdraw the previous offer of 90 days incarceration.” This left numerous potentially innocent individuals with a choice of fighting the charge and maybe found not guilty and walk away, but if they were found guilty, then they did two years incarceration. Most individuals did not fight these charges.
Prosecutors, generally speaking, are younger than judges. Many prosecutors go on to become judges (a practice which is the subject of another blog post). Many prosecutors are more concerned with convictions than they are with justice, under the guise of convictions are justice.
With this ruling, an individual can make a more informed decision about his or her case. If you are charged with Possession with intent to deliver, look to hire the best criminal defense attorney in Centre, Clearfield, Huntingdon, Clinton, Mifflin, Blair County you can afford. Call the Law Offices of Lance T. Marshall for a free evaluation of your case.