HARRISBURG – In light of a recent state Supreme Court ruling that struck down mandatory minimum sentences for serious drug offenses and some violent crimes, Sen. Wayne Langerholc Jr. (R-35) is now seeking cosponsors for legislation to keep harsh penalties in place and crack down on higher-level drug dealers.
While the Supreme Court did not declare mandatory minimums to be unconstitutional, the ruling questioned the way in which sentences were administered by a sentencing judge. After conviction, a judge would choose to apply sentences based upon a preponderance of the evidence – a standard that is lower than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, relying on U.S. Supreme Court case law, deemed this process to be impermissible.
“Because of this ruling, drug dealers have seen Pennsylvania as a more attractive state for doing business,” Langerholc said.
“As a former assistant district attorney, I have witnessed this first-hand. After talking with fellow prosecutors and other law enforcement officials, we see this [as] a necessary step to stop these dealers from escaping the consequences of their crimes.”
Langerholc’s legislation would make the mandatory minimums a separate chargeable offense that a jury would ultimately decide beyond a reasonable doubt.
“On average, the heroin and opioid epidemic is claiming the lives of 10 Pennsylvanians a day and it has become tragically evident that we are slowly losing a generation to the disease of addiction,” Langerholc said.
“These criminals are getting rich by destroying our communities and families, and they should be behind bars, not back on the streets due to a technicality,” he added.
Langerholc’s legislation, which is expected to be introduced by the end of March, would restore those mandatory minimum sentences as well.