THE TRUTH ABOUT 3RD DEGREE MURDER IN PA.
[ Before reading the following information it is strongly suggested that you first study the information found at the "JUDGMENT OF SENTENCE (The Most Important Document)", "PURDON'S REVEALED !", and "CRIMES CODE vs. SENTENCING CODE" options located on the PAsentencing.com homepage, so that you'll understand terms such as "Statutory Authorization", "Written Judgment of Sentence Order", "Crimes Code", "Sentencing Code", etc... Once you've read the information found at the 3 aforementioned options, the following information should be easier for you to comprehend... ]
In Pennsylvania, it is a widely-accepted "customary practice" that criminal defendants found guilty of 3rd Degree Murder can currently be sentenced anywhere up to 40 years imprisonment (for example: 20 -to - 40 years). This "customary practice", which has been perpetrated by the Common Pleas Courts of Pennsylvania since 1995, has been widely-accepted by defense attorneys, district attorneys, and other agents within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Judicial System because such a "Legislative Authority" was assumed to be given with the passing of The Act of 1995, March 15, P.L. 970, No. 5. (Special Session 1).
The Act of 1995, March 15, P.L. 970, No. 5 (Special Session 1) was an Act approved by the General Assembly that amended statute 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102(d) to increase the punishment for 3rd Degree Murder. Before the passing of this Act, the statutory provisions at 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102(d) stated that the maximum penalty for 3rd Degree Murder was 20 years of imprisonment. However, with the passing of The Act of 1995, March 15, P.L. 970, No. 5, (Special Session 1), the maximum penalty for 3rd Degree Murder was increased to 40 years imprisonment.
Now, to the "ordinary" legal practitioner (i.e.: attorneys, and district attorneys), as well as the "less-than-ordinary" legal practitioners (i.e.: public defenders), such an amendment to 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102(d) to increase the punishment for 3rd Degree Murder would appear to be a legitimate and lawful sentencing statute for a Pennsylvania sentencing Judge. However, once you realize the difference between Pennsylvania's "Crimes Code" and Pennsylvania's "Sentencing Code", you'll understand just how useless and unaccessible statute 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102(d) is to a Pennsylvania Sentencing Judge...
First and foremost, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it is well-settled that all crimes are defined and classified by the "Crimes Code" [see: 18 Pa.C.S. Section 106(b) Classification of Crimes found within Pennsylvania's "Crimes Code" ].
Furthermore, it is also well-settled that all sentencing matters in Pennsylvania fall under the jurisdiction of the "Sentencing Code":
"Sentencing is now governed exclusively by the Sentencing Code"
- Commonwealth v. Aeschbacher, 419 A.2d 596, 276 Pa.Super. 554
- Commonwealth v. Craig, 457 A.2d 1310, 311 Pa.Super. 533
With that being said, it must be understood that the procedures that a Pennsylvania Judge must follow when sentencing a criminal defendant are found within the Sentencing Code at 42 Pa.C.S. Section 9721. Sentencing Generally.
The statutory provisions at 42 Pa.C.S. Section 9721 clearly state:
Section 9721. Sentencing Generally
(a) General rule. -- In determining the sentence
to be imposed the court shall, except where a
mandatory minimum sentence is otherwise
provided by law, consider and select one or
more of the following alternatives, and may
them consecutively or concurrently:
(1) An order of probation.
(2) A determination of guilt without further penalty.
(3) Partial Confinement.
(4) Total Confinement.
(5) A fine.
(6) County Intermediate Punishment.
(7) State Intermediate Punishment.
After close examination of the above statutory provisions, it is quite obvious that a Pennsylvania Judge must impose one of the seven (7) above-mentioned alternatives when imposing sentence(s) upon a criminal dedendant. The ONLY EXCEPTION TO THIS PROCEDURE IS: "Except where a mandatory minimum sentence is otherwise prodvided by law..." and this fact is supported by the above statutory provisions!
[EDITOR'S NOTE: A "Mandatory Minimum Sentence" is a sentence that is imposed by a judge because that judge has no discretionary authority to impose any sentence lesser than the legislative mandated minimum limit... It must also be duly noted that a judge has no set maximum limit to adhere to when imposing a "Mandatory Minimum Sentence"...]
However, it must be duly noted that there is no "Mandatory Minimum Sentence" provided by law for a defendant guilty of his/her first 3rd Degree Murder conviction!!! In fact, 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102(d) clearly leaves the Judge with broad discretion to sentence a convicted defendant to a term of imprisonment anywhere within 1 and 40 years. Therefore, any sentence imposed pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102(d) is not a "Mandatory Minimum Sentence" provided by law, and such a sentence cannot be imposed within the exception clause of 42 Pa.C.S. Section 9721(a) !!!
For a Pennsylvania Judge to sentence a 3rd Degree Murder defendant, to any length of sentence under 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1102(d) would create a violation to the discretionary aspects of that defendant's sentence, because such a sentence would violate 42 Pa.C.S. Section 9721(a), which is a statutory provision within the Sentencing Code:
"A substantial question that a sentence is not appropriate under the
Sentencing Code, which must exist in order for a defendant to appeal
the discretionary aspects of the sentence, exists where the defendant
sets forth a plausible argument that the sentence violates a particular
provision of the Sentencing Code or is contrary to the fundamental
norms underlying the sentencing process."
- Commonwealth v. Johnson, 873 A.2d 704 (Pa.Super. 2005)
What the Pennsylvania Common Pleas Judges don't want you to know is that the only "Mandatory Minimum Sentence" lawfully available for convicted 3rd Degree Murder defendants exists at 42 Pa.C.S. Section 9715. Life Imprisonment For Homicide... The reason why Pennsylvania Judges don't want you to know this is because 42 Pa.C.S. Section 9715. Life Imprisonment For Homicide can only be imposed on a defendant who has committed two (2) 3rd Degree Murders!!! If you have only committed one (1) 3rd Degree Murder, there is no statute under Pennsylvania law that a Judge can access from 42 Pa.C.S. Section 9721(a) to sentence you!!!!
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PAsentencing.com was created solely for the purpose of providing the public with accurate information concerning the Pamphlet Laws of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and other related subject matter. However, this website was not created by persons licensed to practice law throughout the state of Pennsylvania. PAsentencing.com should not be construed as a substitute for the advice or representation of an attorney, but rather an aid towards addressing specific aspects concerning illegal sentencing procedures throughout the state of Pennsylvania.