The return of tougher sentencing?

Prosecutors in Pennsylvania are seeking to re-introduce mandatory minimum sentences, in part to help fight the ever-present heroin and opiate epidemic in the state. The House has already passed a bill that would revive the mandatory sentencing rules, which have been out of favor since 2015. The Senate, however, has seen opposition to the bill. Those opposed to the bill have argued that it runs counter to the nationwide trend of relaxing mandatory minimum drug sentences. Those in favor argue that the more severe sentencing system serves as a deterrent, and also encourages those who have been charged to provide information on other drug dealers in order to avoid the mandatory sentence.

Recovery vs. retribution

While prosecutors have emphasized the need to protect public safety and crack down on opioid deaths-from heroin and prescription opioids alike — alternative drug courts have been gaining greater traction. The new drug courts seek to address underlying issues of addiction and mental illness, prioritizing rehabilitation over punishment. The new drug courts also seek to keep offenders out of a system that is already overburdened from both a population and budget standpoint.

Weighing the power of the judge

There are also those who believe that judges will hand down long sentences whether mandatory minimum sentences are in place or not. But reverting to mandatory sentencing would ensure that the long sentences would be a matter of course, not a matter of judicial choice.

If you’ve been charged with a drug crime, you need a strong defender on your side, regardless of the status of minimum mandatory sentencing.