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Senate Co-Sponsorship Memoranda

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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: March 2, 2017 03:53 PM
From: Senator Wayne Langerholc, Jr.
To: All Senate members
Subject: Restoring Mandatory Minimums for Certain Drug Offenses
In the near future, I plan on introducing legislation which would restore certain mandatory minimums for drug offenses that were recently struck down by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

The Supreme Court did not declare mandatory minimums were per se unconstitutional, but rather their administration by a sentencing judge. After conviction, a judge would choose to apply them based on a preponderance of the evidence standard – much lesser than beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court, relying on US Supreme Court case law, concluded that this process was not permissible.

This legislation would make the mandatory minimums a separate chargeable offense that a jury would ultimately decide beyond a reasonable doubt.

As a former Assistant District Attorney, and after many conversations with other prosecutors and members of our law enforcement community, we have found that no longer being able to use these mandatory minimums leads to higher level drug dealers (not mere drug users) escaping consequences for their crimes. It has also made Pennsylvania a more attractive state in which to sell drugs, as the penalties are not as severe. I believe a solution is needed in order to keep these criminals, who are getting rich by destroying our communities and families, behind bars in accordance with their crimes.

The decision also wiped out mandatory minimums for other serious crimes like rape of a child and committing violent crimes, like burglary and robbery, while in possession of a firearm. My legislation would restore those mandatory minimum sentences as well.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this important piece of legislation.