There are many things to worry about when you have been charged with a criminal offense – but one concern tops them all: the punishment you might face.
The Pennsylvania Commission of Sentencing has guidelines for Pennsylvania trial judges that help them determine the sentence for every criminal offense. In most instances, judges will follow these guidelines. However Pennsylvania judges do have the leeway to use their discretion and deviate from them based on mitigating factors.
A good defense attorney will work hard to show the judge mitigating factors that should lessen their clients’ sentences.
What the Offense Gravity Score Means
Under Pennsylvania Sentencing Guidelines, every offense is assigned an Offense Gravity Score (OGS). The OGS is represented by a number and the more serious the offense is, the higher the OGS. For example, the OGS for kidnapping is 10 while the OGS for disorderly conduct is 1.
The judge who sentences you will take into account a calculation based on the OGS and, if you have one, your prior criminal record. The lower your OGS and the fewer your prior convictions, the shorter your guideline sentence.
Judges use a sentencing matrix that specifies these calculations. As your judge decides on your sentence, there are two situations where he or she can’t deviate: mandatory minimum sentences and maximum penalties.
Mandatory Minimum Sentences
In Pennsylvania, some offenses carry mandatory minimum sentences. This means a judge has to sentence you to at least the number of years in prison specified by the law and no fewer, even if there are mitigating factors.
A judge can’t sentence you to a punishment that exceeds an offense’s maximum penalty. For example, a felony of the first degree is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. A judge is not allowed to sentence someone convicted of a first degree felony to 25 years in prison and a $30,000 fine.
How A Lawyer Can Help
Your lawyer can fully explain your charges and prepare an effective defense. They will work with you to determine your best course of action.
Pennsylvania Offense Classes and Gravity Scores
Offense classes and gravity scores are defined under The Pennsylvania Criminal Code under Title 204, Chapter 303. Read the code here.
Questions? Contact us today.
If you are charged with a criminal offense, you face tough punishment dealt out by the Pennsylvania courts. Fienman Defense has the skills and experience to help you avoid the harshest penalties.