Apr. 17, 2017

Legislation to restore mandatory minimum sentences for drug and gun offenses in Pennsylvania passed recently in the House of Representatives, with my support.

We need mandatory minimum sentences to ensure defendants receive an appropriate penalty for the serious nature of their crimes. Under this legislation, many criminals who are currently receiving probationary sentences will be going to prison for a long time.

We must also remember that this bill is also about the victims, who must be assured that criminals get the sentences they deserve.

House Bill 741 would re-enact mandatory minimum sentences for many of Pennsylvania’s most dangerous crimes, including violent offenses committed with a firearm, assaults against children or the elderly, and trafficking deadly drugs. For certain drug trafficking offenses, the bill adjusts the sentence downward and raises the amount of drugs necessary to trigger the mandatory for some substances in order to be certain that drug traffickers, rather than drug addicts, are subject to the penalties.

Other crimes effected include offenses committed on public transportation or while impersonating a law enforcement officer.

Criminals are benefitting from the state’s lack of mandatory sentencing. This has to end.

The bill addresses constitutional issues with Pennsylvania’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws cited by the State Supreme Court in 2015. The high court struck down most mandatory minimum sentences in the state claiming they violated a defendant’s procedural right to have a jury determine any fact affecting the minimum or maximum term of incarceration.

The legislation addresses this by allowing prosecutors to present evidence to jurors to decide whether a mandatory sentencing trigger had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

House Bill 741 now moves to the Senate for consideration.

I sometimes use this column to answer your questions regarding any state government-related matter. Please email them to me at ttoohil@pahousegop.com. As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Representative Tarah Toohil
116th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office
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