Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Crucial in Keeping Pennsylvania Safe
By Ron Marsico, State Representative, 105th Legislative District
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently struck down some of Pennsylvania’s mandatory minimum sentencing statutes because they did not require the Commonwealth to prove the elements triggering the sentence beyond a reasonable doubt.
Last week, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed legislation to re-enact mandatory minimum sentences for many of Pennsylvania’s most dangerous crimes, including violent offenses committed with a firearm, assaults against children or the elderly, and trafficking deadly drugs. For certain drug trafficking offenses, the bill adjusts the mandatory minimum sentence downward and raises the amount of drugs necessary to trigger the mandatory for some substances in order to be certain that drug traffickers, rather than drug addicts, are subject to the sentences.
In order to protect our children, get drug dealers off the streets and keep Pennsylvanians safe, we needed to pass House Bill 741
and implement these mandatory minimum sentences as soon as possible. Mandatory sentences ensure that perpetrators committing dangerous crimes will be held accountable for the crimes they commit. They prevent disparity and unduly lenient sentences. And they guarantee that sentences are uniform throughout the system and ensure that individuals are punished accordingly, based on the crime committed.
I have been fighting this fight for a very long time. Eighteen years ago, we fought to implement mandatory minimums because of horrendous incidents, such as the case of a 12-year-old girl who was pulled off a street and raped in an alley. Her assailant was sentenced to four to 15 years in jail, followed by 20 years of probation. The mandatory minimum would have been 10 years imprisonment. This is unacceptable and, quite frankly, poses a real danger to the Commonwealth.
Another instance where the lack of mandatory minimums caused a dangerous situation was when someone was arrested with approximately 2,000 separate doses of heroin and was sentenced to only nine days to 23 months in jail. This is absurd. These are just a couple of very real cases that happened here, in Pennsylvania. It is ridiculous, and we need to do something about it now.
Convicted drug dealers are poisoning our residents, many of them have guns and they need to go to jail for a long, long time. Criminals are profiting from our lack of mandatory sentencing and getting away with murder. This has to end. Public safety has always been a priority for me, and I will continue to push for this legislation to become law.
I strongly urge the Senate to consider House Bill 741 as soon as possible, pass it out of their chamber and send it to the governor who, I would hope, will have the same position as I do on the importance of ending the victimization of innocent Pennsylvanians and sign this legislation into law.
Representative Ronald Marsico
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Autumn R. Southard, 717.652.3721