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How PA Sentencing Reforms Affect Nonviolent, Drug-Addicted Offenders

In July 2012, the Pennsylvania legislature passed Senate Bill 100 to address how the commonwealth correctional system handles nonviolent offenders with drug and alcohol addictions. This was a welcome move away from harsh minimum sentences. The reforms included:

  • Risk assessments guidelines instituted to help courts separate high-risk offenders appropriate for state prison from lower-risk offenders who might benefit from less expensive alternative programs.
  • Alternative program eligibility is modified to allow alternative program admission to offenders even when a mandatory minimum sentence applies. The law also adjusts the age criteria upward from 35 to 40 years old for inmate admission to the Quehanna Motivational Boot Camp. Courts may also sentence low-quantity drug trafficking offenders to County Intermediate Punishment, where inmates serve their sentences and receive appropriate addiction treatment.
  • Option for counties to institute “HOPE” courts is an innovation modeled after Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program. The HOPE court provides oversight with swift, predictable sanctions for probation violations and periodic, unscheduled drug testing to deter relapses into drug and alcohol abuse.
  • County jail time applied toward prerelease center eligibility allows county jail time to be counted toward fulfilling the prerelease minimum of nine months that an inmate must serve in state prison. The law excludes violent criminals and sex offenders from consideration.

These sentencing reforms give your Reading drug crime attorney additional latitude in negotiating sentences. But, given the steadily high number of drug prosecutions, competition for alternative sentencing programs is high. Your best chance for a favorable disposition of your drug case is to retain a capable drug crime defense attorney as quickly as possible after your arrest.

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