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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: May 8, 2015 09:34 AM
From: Representative Keith J. Greiner and Rep. Steven C. Mentzer
To: All House members
Subject: Crimes Package Legislation
In a direct blow to public safety, recent rulings by the Pennsylvania Superior Court have struck down mandatory minimum sentences for some of the most horrible and violent criminals in Pennsylvania. In doing so, not only is Pennsylvania now less safe than before, they have also eliminated an important instrument for prosecutors that is helpful in sparing child victims of sexual assault the anguish of a trial.

To address this issue, fight for those child victims, support public safety, and return a very important prosecutorial tool to our district attorneys, we will be introducing two bills to reinstate mandatory minimum sentences for two violent and heinous crimes: home burglaries and the molestation of children. Our proposals will amend the Title 18 and Title 42 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to remedy the constitutional issues raised by the Pennsylvania Superior Court and U.S. Supreme Court. Additionally, we will introduce legislation to provide clarity to assault cases in the Commonwealth.

Please join us in sponsoring these proposals to ensure violent criminals and child molesters continue to receive the harsh sentences they deserve.

If you have any questions regarding this legislation, please contact Eric Reath at 717-464-5285 or ereath@pahousegop.com.

Document #1

Introduced as HB1681

Description: Unfortunately, Lancaster County has seen a frightening increase in the number of home burglaries which have led to further violent crimes being committed during the home invasion.  One of the worst and most recent took place in December of 2014.  In that case, a school teacher, who was doing nothing but sleeping in her home, was beaten, sexually assaulted and then brutally murdered as part of an intentional home invasion in the middle of the night.  A mandatory minimum sentence for a crime that, at the very least, violates the sanctity of someone's home is warranted and necessary.  Our homes are our castles, and we need to make sure that the punishment matches the severity of the crime of home burglary.

This legislation would create a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for the first offense and ten years for subsequent. 


Document #2

Description: In the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Alleyne v. United States, the court found that any fact which enhances a sentence must be found by a jury.  This led to PA decisions in which portions of Pennsylvania’s mandatory minimum sentencing statutes that allowed judges to increase a sentence were declared unconstitutional.  While this ruling ultimately effected many drug conviction sentences that many might agree were not as effective as anticipated, it also led to the elimination of strong mandatory sentences for sexual assault and other violent offenses.

Then, in December of 2014, a three-judge panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled in Commonwealth v. Wolfe that, under the Supreme Court’s decision in Alleyne and their own opinion in Commonwealth v. Newman, that the sentencing outline under Pa.C.S.A. Section 9718 is unconstitutional and not severable.  Because of this ruling, the long standing and well-established mandatory sentences for almost all child molesters have been eliminated and many of those already sentenced are attempting to have their sentences reduced.

While the Alleyne ruling is more understandable, its application by the PA Superior Court is misplaced.   In fact, he Wolfe ruling has ignited harsh criticism that the Superior Court overstepped in its decision to vacate a mandatory minimum sentence.  In Commonwealth v. Wolfe, the defense of Matthew Bryan Wolfe argued his sentence of 10-20 years for an involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child conviction violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment and the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the 8th Amendment. 

Peculiarly, the court did not address those arguments in its decision but rather, cited the Alleyne and Newman cases.  Because the issue was never raised by the defense, prosecutors were never given the opportunity to present arguments on the constitutionality of the statute and the judge who gave the sentence was never allowed to explain or defend his sentence.

One thing our PA Superior Court did was to note that any fix must take place in the legislature and I am here today to offer that solution.  This legislation would reinstate mandatory minimum sentences for child molestation.


Document #3

Description: In the near future, I intend to introduce legislation that will “fine tune” our current criminal statute for assault.  Right now, a simple assault is graded as a misdemeanor offense while an aggravated assault can be a felony of the first or second degrees. 

After discussions on this topic with my district attorney, it has become clear to me that there is as huge gap between the two and that there are a lot of cases which belong in the middle.  Therefore, I intend to introduce a bill that will create an intermediate level of assault for the cases far worse than a mere simple assault – which can be a single punch – but which do not rise to the level of aggravated assault – which is causing serious bodily injury.  This intermediate level will be graded as a felony of the third degree (unless committed by an adult against a minor under the age of 12, in which case it would be a felony of the second degree).