All of Pennsylvania’s mandatory minimums related to drug crimes have been overruled, meaning there are no longer mandatory minimums in Pennsylvania drug and narcotics cases. In Commonwealth v. Miller, 102 A.3d 988 (Pa. Super. 2014), the Pennsylvania Superior Court, enforced Alleyne v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (U.S. 2013), thereby overturning all mandatory sentencing issues related to drug crimes. However, a substantial question still existed after the Miller holding whether sentencing enhancements are still legal in Pennsylvania.
In Commonwealth v. Ali, 2015 PA Super 45, on March 5, 2015, the Superior Court held sentencing enhancements are still legal in Pennsylvania. The court distinguished mandatory v. enhancements. The rational in Miller was mandatory minimums set a floor for sentencing. Accordingly, the judge must sentence the defendant to that minimum sentence, and under Alleyne the jury must determine the factors required for the mandatory to apply, not the judge. Pennsylvania’s mandatory minimum statutes were not written in a way to comply with Alleyne to have the jury decide the factors as to whether the mandatory applies; therefore, the Miller Court overturned all of PA’s mandatory sentencing statutes.
In Ali, the question was whether the sentencing enhancements in Youth/School Enhancement 204 Pa. Code § 303.10(b)(2) were illegal, and whether Miller overturned all of the enhancements making the enhancements illegal. The Ali Court held enhancements are not mandatory. If the sentencing court finds the school zone enhancement applies, the sentencing court will have an enhanced guideline range. The guidelines in Pennsylvania are not mandatory, only advisory. Therefore, regardless of the application of the enhancement, the sentencing judge is not required to sentence within the enhanced range, meaning the judge has discretion at sentencing to go above or below the range of sentence. The Ali Court concluded sentencing enhancements are still good law in Pennsylvania. The word “shall” in the statute held the day.
Ali won his appeal in regard to his sentencing and the case was sent back to he trial court for re-sentencing because the appellate court ruled school enhancement did not apply to his sentence because the crime did not occur in a school zone, but the real issue was whether enhancements are still good law, and for now, sentencing enhancements are still good law in Pennsylvania.
The relevant portion of the statute is as follows:
§ 303.10. Guideline sentence recommendations: enhancements.
(b) Youth/School Enhancement.
(1) When the court determines that the offender distributed a controlled substance to a person or persons under the age of 18, the court shall consider the range of sentences described in § 303.9(c).
(2) When the court determines that the offender manufactured, delivered or possessed with intent to deliver a controlled substance within 250 feet of the real property on which is located a public or private elementary or secondary school, the court shall consider the sentence recommendations described in § 303.9(c).
(3) When the court determines both (b)(1) and (b)(2) apply, the court shall consider the sentence recommendations described in § 303.9(c).
(4) The Youth/School Enhancement only applies to violations of 35 P. S. § 780-113(a)(14) and (a)(30).
(5) The Youth/School Enhancement shall apply to each violation which meets the criteria above.