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Mandatory Sentences for Sex Crimes are Unconstitutional

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Following the reasoning in Alleyne v. United States and Commonwealth v. Newman striking down mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania has held that mandatory sentences for sex crimes committed against children are unconstitutional.  Commonwealth v. Wolfe.

42 Pa.C.S.A. ยง 9718 Mandatory Sentences for Offenses Against Infant Persons

Pursuant to this section, a person convicted of certain sex offenses -- Rape, Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse (IDSI), and Aggravated Indecent Assault -- committed against minor children under 16 years of age would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 or 10 years depending upon the specific sex crime.

In order for such mandatory sentence to be imposed, the law required the court to determine whether the Commonwealth proved this section applied by a preponderance of evidence.

Commonwealth v. Wolfe

In this case, the Superior Court was required to determine whether the rationale applied in Newman striking down mandatory minimum drug sentences was applicable to mandatory sentences for sex crimes against children.

In Newman, relying on Alleyne, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania held that the question of whether a mandatory minimum sentence should apply must be decided by a jury and proven by the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt.  Like this section (above), Pennsylvania's Mandatory Drug Sentencing Law only required the court to determine whether the prosecution proved that the sentencing provision applied by a preponderence of evidence.  Since the law required the decision to be made by a different finder-of-fact (judge v. jury) by a lower burden of proof (preponderance of evidence v. beyond a reasonable doubt), the court found it was unconstitutional.

While, unlike drug crimes, there are some distinctions in the elements necessary to prove both the underlying offense for a conviction and the application of a mandatory sentence for sex crimes committed against minors under 16 years of age, the Superior Court, in Wolfe, found that these mandatory sentencing provisions were also unconstitutational and void.  Accordingly, mandatory sentences for a conviction under the relevant sections of Rape, IDSI, and Aggravated Indecent Assault do not currently apply.

PA Sex Crime Penalties

The fact that these mandatory sentencing laws do not currently apply does not mean a person charged with a sex offense no longer faces serious consequences.  The penalties for sex crimes are real.

The mere accusation is stigmatizing.  It can impact both your life and your livelihood.

If convicted, a person could still face significant jail time and sex offender registration requirements under Megan's Law.

If you have been accused of a crime, do not leave your future to chance.

Protect your rights.  Defend your freedom.  Restore your life.

Contact Shawn Curry Law today: (717) 525-8733.

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