COMMONWEALTH V. MUNDAY
(PENNSYLVANIA SUPERIOR COURT, OCT. 10, 2013)
At the end of 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court made major changes to sentencing laws in drug-gun cases throughout the country, including Pennsylvania’s own drug-gun sentencing law, 42 Pa. C.S. § 9712.1. Sentences for certain drug offenses committed with firearms.
Previously, in a typical drug case in Philadelphia involving use of a gun or firearm, the DA was only required to provide notice, at least before sentencing, that its office intended to seek the mandatory minimum sentence. In many drug-gun cases, the DA provided notice after conviction, before sentencing. From a practical point, so long as there was a factual basis for the gun possession, local DA offices tended to seek the enhanced sentence.
However, due to a recent change to U.S. constitutional law, DA offices in Pennsylvania are adjusting how they handle drug-gun cases. In late 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a major, game-changing decision, Alleyne v. U.S. There, the Court held that mandatory minimum sentencing laws which only require DAs to prove the sentencing factor by any standard less than beyond a reasonable doubt and/or to a judge and not a jury, violate the Due Process Clause and the jury trial guarantee of the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
As it currently stands, Pennsylvania’s drug-gun sentencing law violates the U.S. Constitution because it 1. only requires the DA to prove the fact (gun possession) by a preponderance of the evidence, and 2. only requires the DA to prove the fact to a judge, not a jury. Therefore, in drug-gun cases, the Alleyne case effectively changed the burden on the prosecution and how the DA has to prove the fact (gun possession).
PHILADELPHIA MAN RELEASED AFTER COURT CONSIDERS 5 YEAR MANDATORY SENTENCE IN DRUG-GUN CASE
Commonwealth v. Munday is a 2013 PA Superior Court decision which ruled in favor of the petitioner (the criminal defendant) and ordered resentencing. This appeal was decided after the Alleyne case; therefore, the Superior Court applied the requirements of Alleyne.
In Munday, the defendant was convicted of drug-dealing or possession with intent to deliver (PWID) and was originally sentenced to 5-10 years in accordance with PA’s mandatory minimum sentencing law in drug-gun cases, 42 Pa. C.S. § 9712.1. After the appellate court decision, he was resentenced to 25-50 months and released on parole with credit for time served.
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