In Philadelphia and the surrounding counties of Delaware, Chester and Montgomery, drug and gun cases are the most common types of criminal cases filed in state court. One question that comes up is whether Pennsylvania’s 3 strike rule will affect sentencing. The answer depends.
Pennsylvania’s 3 strike rule only applies to certain violent crimes and second or third convictions for violent crimes. In some drug and gun cases, the 3 strike rule may result in either a mandatory 10 year (2 strike rule) or 25 year (3 strike rule) prison sentence. See Section 9714 below. While drug and gun charges don’t trigger this rule, these cases often include violent crime charges, and if the defendant has prior convictions for violent crimes, the 3 strike rule may be triggered. It’s important to note that other mandatory sentences may apply to drug and gun cases including selling large amounts of marijuana or federal gun possession charges.
Criminal drug and gun cases accepted in Philadelphia, Delaware, Chester, Lackawanna & Montgomery Counties. FREE CONSULTATIONS (215) 564-0644
Example 1 – Philadelphia resident is arrested during a drug deal where the alleged victim/buyer is struck in the face with a gun, causing serious injuries. As a result, the resident is charged with drug dealing (possession with intent to distribute), violation of the Uniform Firearms Act (VUFA) and aggravated assault. The resident has a prior conviction for robbery. If the resident is convicted of aggravated assault, the 3 strike rule’s 10 year prison sentence would apply because of the prior conviction for robbery.
Example 2 – A Delaware County resident is arrested during a drug raid at his friend’s house. While police officers raid the home, the resident discharges a firearm and is charged with attempted assault of a police officer, in addition to drug possession and gun possession charges. The resident has a prior conviction for drug delivery resulting in death and a prior conviction for burglary. If convicted of attempted assault of a police officer, the two prior convictions would trigger the 3 strike rule’s 25 year prison sentence.
Crimes Applicable Under the 3 Strike Rule
Only crimes of violence trigger the 3 strike rule. They include:
- 3rd degree murder
- drug delivery resulting in death
- voluntary manslaughter
- homicide of a law enforcement officer
- aggravated assault
- assault of law enforcement officer
- use of weapons of mass destruction
- 1st degree trafficking of persons
- sexual offenses (rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, etc.)
- arson endangering persons
- aggravated arson
- robbery of a motor vehicle
- criminal attempt of the offenses listed above
The above list is not a full and complete list. See Section 9714(d) below.
Because of the 3 strike rule’s lengthy prison sentences, it’s critical to present the best defenses possible in the underlying criminal case. This includes motions to suppress evidence and preparing the case for a rigorous defense at trial. In the best case scenario, the violent crime charge could be dismissed by the court or as a result of plea negotiations.
Contact our law firm to get a free consultation with criminal lawyer David Nenner. Mr. Nenner has over 30 years of experience handling major felony cases in state and federal court. (215) 564-0644
Pennsylvania’s Three Strike Law (Current as of January 2020)
§ 9714. Sentences for second and subsequent offenses.
(a) Mandatory sentence.–
(1) Any person who is convicted in any court of this Commonwealth of a crime of violence shall, if at the time of the commission of the current offense the person had previously been convicted of a crime of violence, be sentenced to a minimum sentence of at least ten years of total confinement, notwithstanding any other provision of this title or other statute to the contrary. Upon a second conviction for a crime of violence, the court shall give the person oral and written notice of the penalties under this section for a third conviction for a crime of violence. Failure to provide such notice shall not render the offender ineligible to be sentenced under paragraph (2).
(2) Where the person had at the time of the commission of the current offense previously been convicted of two or more such crimes of violence arising from separate criminal transactions, the person shall be sentenced to a minimum sentence of at least 25 years of total confinement, notwithstanding any other provision of this title or other statute to the contrary. Proof that the offender received notice of or otherwise knew or should have known of the penalties under this paragraph shall not be required. Upon conviction for a third or subsequent crime of violence the court may, if it determines that 25 years of total confinement is insufficient to protect the public safety, sentence the offender to life imprisonment without parole.
(a.1) Mandatory maximum.–An offender sentenced to a mandatory minimum sentence under this section shall be sentenced to a maximum sentence equal to twice the mandatory minimum sentence, notwithstanding 18 Pa.C.S. § 1103 (relating to sentence of imprisonment for felony) or any other provision of this title or other statute to the contrary.
(b) Presumption of high risk dangerous offender.–(Deleted by amendment).
(c) High risk dangerous offender.–(Deleted by amendment).
(d) Proof at sentencing.–Provisions of this section shall not be an element of the crime and notice thereof to the defendant shall not be required prior to conviction, but reasonable notice of the Commonwealth’s intention to proceed under this section shall be provided after conviction and before sentencing. The applicability of this section shall be determined at sentencing. The sentencing court, prior to imposing sentence on an offender under subsection (a), shall have a complete record of the previous convictions of the offender, copies of which shall be furnished to the offender. If the offender or the attorney for the Commonwealth contests the accuracy of the record, the court shall schedule a hearing and direct the offender and the attorney for the Commonwealth to submit evidence regarding the previous convictions of the offender. The court shall then determine, by a preponderance of the evidence, the previous convictions of the offender and, if this section is applicable, shall impose sentence in accordance with this section. Should a previous conviction be vacated and an acquittal or final discharge entered subsequent to imposition of sentence under this section, the offender shall have the right to petition the sentencing court for reconsideration of sentence if this section would not have been applicable except for the conviction which was vacated.
(e) Authority of court in sentencing.–There shall be no authority in any court to impose on an offender to which this section is applicable any lesser sentence than provided for in subsections (a) and (a.1) or to place such offender on probation or to suspend sentence. Nothing in this section shall prevent the sentencing court from imposing a sentence greater than that provided in this section. Sentencing guidelines promulgated by the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing shall not supersede the mandatory sentences provided in this section.
(f) Appeal by Commonwealth.–If a sentencing court shall refuse to apply this section where applicable, the Commonwealth shall have the right to appellate review of the action of the sentencing court. The appellate court shall vacate the sentence and remand the case to the sentencing court for the imposition of a sentence in accordance with this section if it finds that the sentence was imposed in violation of this section.
(g) Definition.–As used in this section, the term “crime of violence” means murder of the third degree, voluntary manslaughter, manslaughter of a law enforcement officer as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2507(c) or (d) (relating to criminal homicide of law enforcement officer), murder of the third degree involving an unborn child as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2604(c) (relating to murder of unborn child), aggravated assault of an unborn child as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2606 (relating to aggravated assault of unborn child), aggravated assault as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2702(a)(1) or (2) (relating to aggravated assault), assault of law enforcement officer as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2702.1 (relating to assault of law enforcement officer), use of weapons of mass destruction as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2716(b) (relating to weapons of mass destruction), terrorism as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2717(b)(2) (relating to terrorism), trafficking of persons when the offense is graded as a felony of the first degree as provided in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3002 (relating to trafficking of persons), rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, incest, sexual assault, arson endangering persons or aggravated arson as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3301(a) or (a.1) (relating to arson and related offenses), ecoterrorism as classified in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3311(b)(3) (relating to ecoterrorism), kidnapping, burglary as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3502(a)(1) (relating to burglary), robbery as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3701(a)(1)(i), (ii) or (iii) (relating to robbery), or robbery of a motor vehicle, drug delivery resulting in death as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2506(a) (relating to drug delivery resulting in death), or criminal attempt, criminal conspiracy or criminal solicitation to commit murder or any of the offenses listed above, or an equivalent crime under the laws of this Commonwealth in effect at the time of the commission of that offense or an equivalent crime in another jurisdiction.