Prior Record & Mandatory Minimums

Prior records and mandatory minimums are some of the factors taken into consideration during a criminal DUI case.

Maximum Penalty

When the law prescribes a range of appropriate sentences for a given offense, the court cannot order a sentence longer the maximum penalty. For example, because possession of paraphernalia has a maximum penalty of 12 months’ incarceration, the court cannot order a 2-year sentence. 

Mandatory Minimum

In addition to the maximum penalty, some offenses have a minimum sentence which cannot be reduced by the court.

For example, a first offense DUI for controlled substances has a mandatory minimum penalty of 72 hours’ incarceration. A conviction for this type of DUI cannot be resolved without at least a 3-day sentence. 

Just because an offense has a mandatory minimum penalty doesn’t mean the court is prohibited from ordering a longer minimum sentence. This is where the prior record is taken into consideration. 

Among the justifications for criminal punishment is the potential to deter an offender from reoffending.

When someone is assigned a criminal punishment, there is an expectation that they will refrain from committing future crimes to avoid more punishment. However, if they commit a subsequent crime, the court considers the earlier conviction through the Prior Record Score. 

Sentencing Guidelines In Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has a chart called the Sentencing Guidelines that recommends ranges of sentences based on a defendant’s prior record score (x-axis) and the severity of the offense (y-axis). As the prior record score increases, so does the recommended sentence. 

The prior record score can be particularly important in DUI cases.

While only DUIs resolved within the last 10 years are counted when determining the level of a DUI (e.g., 1st, 2nd, 3rd offense), all prior convictions, including previous DUIs, contribute to the Prior Record Score. If someone had multiple DUI convictions in the 1990s and faced a new DUI charge categorized as a first offense, the Sentencing Guidelines might recommend a longer minimum sentence based on the Prior Record Score. This means that a defendant with an extensive criminal history could potentially receive a 3-6 month jail sentence for a first offense DUI, even though the mandatory minimum is just 3 days for the highest BAC.

There are many variables to consider when defending and negotiating offers in criminal cases. If you have been criminally charged, Manchester and Associates can help, our firm is well versed in DUI defense.

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