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The Two and Three-Strike Laws in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s Three Strikes Law refers to the state’s statute in the Pennsylvania Judicial Code that mandates stiffer sentences for individuals facing criminal charges, based upon certain prior criminal felony offenses they have committed. As with over half of the states in the nation, Pennsylvania has enacted a statute, designed to act as a strong deterrent to recidivism and the repeated commission of serious and violent crimes and to enhance public safety and security.

The Pennsylvania statute also includes harsher sentences based on a second offense or “second strike” when an individual has a prior conviction for a crime of violence on his record. The state law requires a mandatory sentence of at least 10 years when an offender is convicted of a crime of violence, when he has a prior conviction for a crime of violence on his record. See 42 Pa.C.S.A. §9714. For a third violent crime, the mandatory minimum prison term is 25 years, and in certain cases, the court has the discretion to impose a life sentence if the alleged crime is serious enough or if the repeat offender has a history or pattern of serious violent crimes.

Pennsylvania’s three-strike rule only applies to certain violent crimes and second or third convictions for violent crimes. The crimes that are applicable under the two- and three-strike rule are crimes of violence, which include such offenses as: third-degree murder; voluntary manslaughter; manslaughter of a law enforcement officer; aggravated assault; assault of law enforcement officer; use of weapons of mass destruction; first-degree trafficking of persons; sexual offenses, including rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, incest, sexual assault; and arson endangering persons; kidnapping; and burglary, among other such offenses. The crimes and offenses mentioned in the statute are primarily felonies, although misdemeanors are not strictly excluded from being subject to this law.

The Three Strikes Law has faced some criticism for its susceptibility of resulting in unduly and unreasonably stiffer sentences for crimes that were deemed violent crimes, pursuant to the Criminal Code, due to the use of or the threat of force, when for example, the crime involved only the minimal use of force or involved the threats of force, such as in a robbery in which a verbal threat to use violence were made. If such a robbery charge results in a conviction, the offense may count as a “strike” against the offender and he or she could face the mandatory penalty on a subsequent violent offense.

It should also be noted that there is no time-restriction associated with the Two- and Three Strikes Law and the law is not subject to any “look-back” period, such that prior offenses that occurred remotely in the past can be excluded due to the age of the offense.

Under the law, an offender’s entire criminal record can be considered. Even crimes that were committed in other states may factor into sentencing under a three-strikes law.

If you are facing criminal charges of any kind in Pennsylvania, your freedom and future may be at risk if you do not act swiftly. Contact the criminal defense lawyers at Tanner Law Offices. Our team of skilled professionals is prepared to defend you through this challenging time and ensure your rights are fully protected. Please contact our office at 717-731-8114 to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.