After a criminal charge, if a defendant pleads guilty or gets convicted in a trial, the case will move to sentencing. Even though there has already been a conviction, a criminal defense lawyer is still essential at this point: the judge still has to decide what the penalties will be for the crime. While there are numerous rules that the judge has to follow, they still have some discretion for how to punish a violation of the law.
One of those rules for sentencing, though, is what is commonly referred to as the minimum maximum rule. This rule forces judges to issue a range of time for the jail sentence. It also sets limits on what the minimum and maximum sentences can be, and works alongside Pennsylvania's parole rules.
Jail Sentences in Pennsylvania
A lot of different crimes come with the potential for jail time if the defendant is convicted. Many of them do not have a mandatory minimum jail sentence. Instead, the law says that a conviction for the offense can come with “up to” a set jail sentence.
When there is no mandatory minimum, the judge might decide to sentence a defendant to a term of probation and other requirements, rather than a stint in jail.
If they do decide to sentence a convicted defendant to jail, though, judges have to issue a jail sentence with two terms: A minimum and a maximum, like “12 to 24 months” or “three to six years.”
What is the Minimum Maximum Rule in Pennsylvania?
The minimum maximum rule is concerned with those two terms in a jail sentence. Under the rule, the minimum jail sentence cannot be more than half of the maximum jail sentence.
For example, a jail sentence of “two to four years” complies with the minimum maximum rule because the minimum is exactly half of the maximum. A jail sentence of “two to ten years” also complies with the rule because the minimum is less than half of the maximum.
However, a jail sentence of “ten months to one year” violates the minimum maximum rule because the shorter term is longer than half of the maximum. Meanwhile, a flat jail sentence of “six years” also violates the rule because there is no range.
How the Minimum Maximum Rule Intersects With Parole
The minimum maximum rule is important because it shows when an inmate will be eligible for parole for a given jail sentence.
In Pennsylvania, inmates are eligible for parole after the minimum jail sentence has been served, or after they have served half of their time in jail. This works hand-in-hand with the minimum maximum rule. They both give inmates the opportunity to get out of jail when half of their sentence still has to be served – often referred to as the “back end” of the sentence.
Joseph D. Lento: Criminal Defense in Philadelphia
Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense lawyer who helps people who have been accused of a crime in the city of Philadelphia. Contact him online or call his law office at (215) 535-5353.