Understanding Pennsylvania’s “Three Strikes” Law

Understanding Pennsylvania’s “Three Strikes” Law

In Pennsylvania, if you are convicted more than once on a charge considered to be a “crime of violence,” there are statutory provisions that go into effect, mandating a minimum prison term. Often referred to as the “three strikes” law, the statute actually imposes severe punishment for a second conviction, with progressively harsher penalties for subsequent convictions.

Sentencing for Second and Subsequent Convictions in Pennsylvania

Pursuant to 42 Pa C.S. §9714, if a person is convicted in Pennsylvania of a crime of violence and had a prior conviction for a crime of violence, the minimum sentence imposed will be 10 years. The maximum sentence may not be more than 20 years (twice the minimum, as specified by statute), unless another statute covers the crime and calls for a longer prison term. The law requires that the court notify a defendant, upon a second conviction for a crime of violence, of the potential penalties for a third conviction. However, the failure to provide such notice does not prevent the defendant from having the statutory penalties for a third conviction imposed.

If a defendant is convicted of a third crime of violence, he or she must be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison, provided the prior convictions came from separate criminal acts. The court may, at its discretion, sentence the defendant to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, should the court determine that 25 years is not a sufficient time to ensure the public safety. The statute does not provide much latitude for the court, prohibiting the judge from imposing any lesser sentence than specified in its provisions.

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