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    Drug-Gun Cases in Philadelphia, Sentencing Laws Have Changed Significantly

    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.

    Related: Pennsylvania’s Mandatory Sentence Law in Drug-Gun Crime Cases, 42 Pa.C.S. § 9712.1

    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).

    Related: Mandatory Minimum Sentences in Criminal Drug-Gun Cases in Philadelphia, PA

    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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