Numerous states, including Pennsylvania, have “three-strikes laws” in their statutes. These laws impose harsher penalties for defendants convicted of subsequent offenses. A third conviction for a violent crime can result in incredibly severe penalties.
Pennsylvania’s three-strikes law states that a person convicted of multiple violent crimes from separate criminal instances can be sentenced to much harsher terms. For a third conviction, or “strike,” a defendant may face 25 years in prison. The law applies to crimes of violence, usually felony offenses. While many of the offenses covered by this law tend to be serious, they do not have to be, and defendants convicted of relatively non-serious violent crimes may be very harshly sentenced. There may be various ways to avoid being sentenced under the three-strikes law, and you should consult with an attorney about your case immediately.
If you are facing your second or third case for a violent crime in Pennsylvania, you may be at risk of sentencing under the three-strikes law. Our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys can help you fight the charges and hopefully avoid an overly harsh sentence. For a free case review, call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.
Pennsylvania’s Three-Strikes Law
Under Pa.C.S. § 9714(a), Pennsylvania’s three-strikes law kicks in when a defendant is convicted of a subsequent violent offense. While the law imposes much harsher penalties for those convicted of a third offense, there are also heightened penalties for second offenses. Our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys can help you challenge your charges and the sentencing terms under this law.
Under the three-strikes law, a defendant convicted of a second offense faces a mandatory minimum prison term of 10 years. For a third violent crime, the mandatory minimum prison term is 25 years. Not only that, but the judge has the discretion to impose a life sentence if your alleged crime is serious enough or if you have a history or pattern of serious violent crimes.
It is important to note that judges have almost no discretion to alter to reduce a prison sentence under the three-strikes law. No amount of mitigating factors can help a defendant lower their sentence, nor can they escape the mandatory minimum through a plea deal.
There is also a mandatory maximum sentence. Under 42 Pa.C.S. § 9714(a.1), the mandatory maximum under the three-strikes law is equal to double the mandatory minimum sentence. For example, a person convicted of a second violent crime sentenced under this law would face a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of 20 years. For a third violent offense, the minimum is 25 years, and the maximum would be 50 years unless a life sentence is imposed instead.
What Crimes Does Pennsylvania’s Three-Strikes Law Apply To?
Pennsylvania’s three-strikes law applies only to violent crimes. Non-violent crimes are not covered. However, you may still be sentenced under the three-strikes law if you are charged with both non-violent and violent offenses from the same criminal act. Our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys can help you challenge allegations of violence and hopefully prevent this statute from being imposed in your case.
The law applies mostly to felonies but not necessarily serious felonies. Some non-serious felonies where the alleged violence is minimal may be included. For example, crimes involving threats of force but not the actual use of force may be considered violent crimes for sentencing under the three-strikes law. A complete list of crimes covered by the three-strikes law can be found under 42 Pa.C.S. § 9714(g).
There is no mention of a look-back period in the statute, meaning your prior convictions need not have occurred within a specific period of time. Your entire criminal record can be considered. Even crimes committed in other states may factor into sentencing under a three-strikes law.
Risk of Overly Harsh Punishments Under Three-Strikes Law?
The language in the statute says that the law applies to anyone convicted of a “crime of violence.” The specific crimes mentioned in the statute are largely felonies, although misdemeanors are not explicitly excluded from being sentenced under this law.
One of the most significant concerns among defendants up against the three-strikes law is being sentenced to decades behind bars for a less serious crime. For example, a defendant convicted of a violent felony where the violence was not serious or life-threatening, or in cases where the violence is only threatened but not carried out, might be sentenced to 25 years in prison when the standard penalties are much less severe.
It is important to speak with an attorney about your case immediately. Our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys can help you argue against allegations of violence. Even if you are still charged and convicted, it may be for a non-violent offense, and the three-strikes law would not apply.
How Do I Avoid Being Sentenced Under Pennsylvania’s Three-Strikes Law?
One way to try and avoid being sentenced under Pennsylvania’s three-strikes law is to challenge the accuracy of your criminal record. You can only be sentenced under this law if you have at least 1 prior conviction for a crime of violence. Inaccuracies in your criminal record might lead prosecutors to mistakenly pursue a three-strike sentencing.
If you are sentenced under Pennsylvania’s three-strikes law, and one of your prior convictions is later vacated, you can petition the court to reconsider your current sentence. For example, suppose you are convicted of a third crime of violence and sentenced to the mandatory minimum of 25 years. Next, suppose one of your prior convictions that made you eligible for sentencing under the three-strikes law is vacated. Our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys can help you petition the court to reconsider your current sentence because your criminal record has changed.
Call Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorneys for Help Now
If you are facing criminal charges of any kind, our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys can help you fight your case and assert your rights. For a free evaluation of your case, call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.