Inquirer: Pa. mandatory minimum sentences under challenge

By Chris Palmer (The Inquirer) Mandatory minimum sentences for gun- and drug-related offenses are in limbo across Pennsylvania, delaying trials and causing confusion in hundreds of cases as courts grapple with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued last year.

Despite the frustrations, some in the legal community are hoping the turbulence will draw fresh attention to a hotly disputed practice and stimulate further debate.

The issue bubbled up in Bucks County in June, when five county judges signed an opinion siding with an alleged heroin dealer whose attorney had argued that the mandatory minimum sentences she was facing were unconstitutional.

Similar appeals have been made in at least 10 other counties, said State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R., Montgomery), chair of the Judiciary Committee.

Peter Rosalsky, an assistant defender with the Defender Association of Philadelphia, said judges in “nearly every single courtroom in every single county” are confronting the issue.

Criminal defense attorney Steven F. Fairlie called the situation “a mess.”

Some in the legal community are hoping the quagmire will lead to a reevaluation of the practice.

Full story.

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