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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: September 29, 2015 08:58 AM
From: Representative Mike Vereb
To: All House members
Subject: LEGISLATION: Restoring Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Violent Crimes
Not long ago, in a case called Alleyne v. United States, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution requires the jury to decide beyond a reasonable doubt whether a fact which gives rise to a mandatory minimum sentence exists. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court since has applied Alleyne to void a Pennsylvania mandatory sentencing statute.

That decision has effectively rendered many of our mandatory sentence statutes invalid because many have the same language struck down by the Court. Among the provisions which are now void are many which protect our most vulnerable citizens from violent crimes, including those imposing mandatory sentences for violent crimes against infants and children, for violent crimes against the elderly, for violent crimes by those who impersonate law enforcement, and for violent crimes occurring on public transportation.

Mandatory sentences serve a critical role in our system of justice. They represent a legislative judgment that offenders convicted of these very serious crimes should serve a period of incarceration, regardless of the particular circumstances of the crime or the offender. They also ensure that particularly lenient judges do not minimize the seriousness of the offense by granting probation or a short term in jail.

It is important that the General Assembly restores this valuable deterrent to violent crime and to protect our most vulnerable citizens. To begin the process, I plan to introduce legislation which will amend Judicial Code Sections 9713, 9717, 9718 and 9719 to remove the offending language and require the jury to make the finding beyond a reasonable doubt.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Introduced as HB1601