August 30, 2010

Ruling Limits Ability of Judges to Inflate Sex Offender Sentences

8-30-2010 Pennsylvania:

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has stopped an end-run around sex offender laws in their efforts to get offenders sentenced to harsher penalties.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has stopped prosecutors and judges from employing an end-run around sex offender laws in their efforts to get offenders sentenced to harsher penalties.

The court's ruling came in the case of Commonwealth. v. Jarowecki (985 A.2d 955). Craig S. Jarowecki of West Reading was convicted in 2006 of eight counts of possessing child pornography for having six images and two movies on his computer.

At his trial, Judge Linda Ludgate agreed to treat one conviction as his first offense and the other seven offenses as second convictions, dramatically raising the penalties for Jarowecki.

Enormous Changes
Ludgate then imposed a sentence ranging from 37 months to 17 years in state prison. If she hadn't agreed to the artificial upgrade in his sentence, the punishment for a first offense would have ranged from probation to up to seven years in prison.

In a 21-page decision, Supreme Court Justice Debra Todd concluded that the law doesn't allow treating one violation as a first offense, and other violations of the law in the same incident as second offenses in order to obtain multiple convictions and higher penalties.

Last year, state lawmakers expanded child pornography laws to make intentional viewing of child porn a punishable offense. Previously, a person had to "knowingly possess or control" child pornography. Now the law defines the offense as "the deliberate, purposeful, voluntary viewing" of the materials.

Sentencing guidelines in Pennsylvania are weighted against sex offenders with prior convictions. With sex offenses, the penalties rise significantly for those with multiple convictions.

Pennsylvania sentencing guidelines are broken down into five categories, with Level One being for "the least serious offenders" and Level Five for "the most violent offenders."

For example, a Level Five conviction for sexual assualt for an offender with no prior convictions calls for a sentence of 36 to 54 months, according to Pennsylvania sentencing guidelines. If the same offense is proven against someone with five prior convictions, the guidelines go up to a range of 72 months to 90 months.

Someone who is a repeat Level One and Level Two offender would, for the same offense, get 84 to 102 months. whereas someone classified as a repeat violent offender would get 120 months (12 years) in a state prison for the same offense and conviction.

If you or a loved one faces sex offense charges, contact a Pennsylvania criminal offense lawyer who understands the law and the rights of the accused. A criminal defense attorney can assess the facts and charges in the case and advise you of your legal options. ..Source.. David S. Shrager

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Its only a matter of time before all this " get tough on sex offenders " bankrupts the whole system.