Legislation passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly and signed by the Governor become the laws which frame sentencing guidelines. The PA Commission on Sentencing is required by statute to adopt guidelines for sentencing within the limits established by law (42 Pa.C.S. §2154). Pennsylvania law provides for sentencing alternatives ranging from guilt without further penalty to total incarceration.
The Sentencing Guidelines recommend a range of minimum sentence based on the seriousness of the offense (Offense Gravity Score) and the prior criminal history (Prior Record Score) of the offender. Therefore, the more serious the offense, the more serious is the recommended punishment. Additionally, an offender with a more serious and/or more extensive criminal history will have a more serious punishment recommended. For each combination of OGS and PRS scores, the guidelines prescribe three ranges:
- A standard range, for use under normal circumstances,
- An aggravated range, for use when the judge determines that there are aggravating circumstances/factors (things that tend to increase the seriousness of the offense), and
- A mitigated range for use when the judge determines that there are mitigating circumstances/factors (things that tend to “lessen” the seriousness of the crime).
In Pennsylvania’s indeterminate sentencing system, the trial judge is free to impose any maximum term up to the statutory maximum established by the Legislature for the grade of the conviction offense.