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So What am I Gonna Get? The Basics of Standard Range Sentencing


The average person is often perplexed by the disparity in sentences received by different individuals at the end of a criminal proceeding. One of the worst parts of a criminal proceeding is the uncertainty in the pro se defendant’s mind about potential consequences. You may be startled to receive paperwork indicating a potential statutory maximum sentence of several years in prison for a seemingly minor offense. Before you have a heart attack, it is important to understand how standard range sentencing works.

The Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing establishes guidelines for recommended minimum sentences that are applied in an overwhelming majority of cases. The standard range sentence is generally far less severe than the statutory maximum sentence. The guideline sentence is determined by calculating the prior record score of the offender and looking up the offense gravity score of the offense. . The offense gravity score is the number given based on the seriousness of the offense in the eyes of the legislature. This will establish the base standard range sentence when applied to the appropriate sentencing matrix. The sentence may be more serious if certain enhancements are applied. Crimes where a deadly weapon was used and/or possessed, and crimes where a youth/school enhancement apply have a more serious sentencing matrix to apply.

It is important to remember when reviewing the applicable sentencing matrix, that the matrix determines the standard range minimum, which would be the first chance the defendant may have the potential to be paroled. Sentences in Pennsylvania are given in ranges, where the maximum sentence must be at least double the minimum sentence.

Despite the majority of sentences falling in the standard range, the sentencing judge is not bound by the recommendations of the Sentencing Commission. However, the reasoning for a deviation from the standard range must be put on the record by the sentencing judge. If the rationale for imposing a sentence in excess of the standard range is not put on the record, the defendant may be entitled to resentencing.

There are several reasons for potential departures above and below the standard range. Plea agreements between the District Attorney and defense counsel may result in a mitigated sentence. The defendant’s conduct may be seen as particularly egregious and require a harsher sentence. And in probation revocations all bets are off, as the standard range no longer applies.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, it is important that you have competent defense counsel you can trust. Attorney Frank Walker has years of experience in all phases of defense litigation, from the preliminary hearing to sentencing and beyond. Don’t proceed any further while in the dark about potentially serious sentencing ramifications. Find a guide you can trust in Frank Walker today. Call our office at (412) 212-3878 Lines are open 24/7!