§ 303.1. Sentencing guidelines standards.
(a) The court shall consider the sentencing guidelines in determining the appropriate sentence for offenders convicted of, or pleading guilty or nolo contendere to, felonies and misdemeanors. Where crimes merge for sentencing purposes, the court shall consider the sentencing guidelines only on the offense assigned the higher Offense Gravity Score.
(b) The sentencing guidelines do not apply to sentences imposed as a result of the following: accelerated rehabilitative disposition; disposition in lieu of trial; direct or indirect contempt of court; violations of protection from abuse orders; revocation of probation, county intermediate punishment or state intermediate punishment, except as provided in 204 Pa. Code Chapter 307; or revocation of parole.
(c) The sentencing guidelines shall apply to all offenses committed on or after the effective date of the guidelines. Amendments to the guidelines shall apply to all offenses committed on or after the date the amendment becomes part of the guidelines.
(1) When there are current multiple convictions for offenses that overlap two sets of guidelines, the former guidelines shall apply to offenses that occur prior to the effective date of the amendment and the later guidelines shall apply to offenses that occur on or after the effective date of the amendment. If the specific dates of the offenses cannot be determined, the later date determines the edition of the guidelines that shall apply to the offenses.
(2) The initial sentencing guidelines went into effect on July 22, 1982 and applied to all crimes committed on or after that date. Amendments to the guidelines went into effect in June 1983, January 1986 and June 1986. On October 7, 1987 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated the guidelines due to a procedural error that occurred in 1981 when the legislature rejected the first set of guidelines. New guidelines were drafted and became effective on April 25, 1988. Amendments to the guidelines went into effect August 9, 1991 and December 20, 1991. Revised sets of guidelines became effective August 12, 1994, June 13, 1997, June 3, 2005, December 5, 2008, and December 28, 2012. Amendments to the guidelines went into effect September 27, 2013, September 26, 2014, September 25, 2015, January 1, 2018, and June 1, 2018. This amendment, Amendment 5 of the 7th Edition Sentencing Guidelines, shall take effect January 1, 2020 and apply to all crimes committed on or after that date.
(d) In every case in which a court of record imposes a sentence for a felony or misdemeanor, the court shall make as a part of the record, and disclose in open court at the time of sentencing, a statement of the reason or reasons for the sentence imposed. In every case where a court of record imposes a sentence outside the sentencing guidelines, the reason or reasons for the deviation from the guidelines shall be recorded on the Guideline Sentence Form, a copy of which shall be electronically transmitted to the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing in the manner described in § 303.1(e).
(e) (1) Unless otherwise provided by the Commission, the JNET-based Sentencing Guidelines Software Web application (SGS Web) shall be used at the courts direction to prepare all guideline-required sentencing information. The completed Guideline Sentence Form shall be made a part of the record and the information electronically submitted to the Commission via SGS Web no later than 30 days after the date of sentencing.
(2) Effective for sentences imposed on or after January 1, 2016, the JNET-based Sentencing Guidelines Software Web application (SGS Web) shall be used at the courts direction to report all subsequent revocations of probation, county intermediate punishment and state intermediate punishment and related resentences to the Commission. The information shall be electronically submitted to the Commission via SGS Web no later than 30 days after the date of resentencing.
(f) Effective January 1, 2014, the State Identification Number (SID) for an offender shall be included as part of the record in the completed Guideline Sentence Form.
The provisions of this § 303.1 amended July 5, 1985, and applies to sentences for crimes committed after January 1, 1986, 15 Pa.B. 2447; as announced at 16 Pa.B. 439 (February 15, 1986). Prior guidelines will continue to apply when sentencing crimes committed before January 2, 1986; amended December 4, 1987, effective April 25, 1988, 18 Pa.B. 1916; amended May 11, 1991, effective August 9, 1991, 21 Pa.B. 3988; amended February 15, 1994, effective August 12, 1994, 24 Pa.B. 2483; amended March 14, 1997, effective June 13, 1997, 27 Pa.B. 1252; amended February 9, 2005, effective June 3, 2005, 35 Pa.B. 1508; amended September 5, 2008, effective December 5, 2008, 38 Pa.B. 4971; amended September 13, 2012, effective December 28, 2012, 42 Pa.B. 6072; amended June 6, 2013, effective September 27, 2013, 43 Pa.B. 3655; amended June 27, 2014, effective September 26, 2014, 44 Pa.B. 4071; amended June 26, 2015, effective September 25, 2015, 45 Pa.B. 3457; amended June 1, 2017, effective December 1, 2017, applicable to all sentences for offenses committed on or after January 1, 2018, 47 Pa.B. 5141; amended September 6, 2019, effective January 1, 2020, 49 Pa.B. 5110. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (388285) to (388288). See Commonwealth v. Sessoms, 532 A.2d 775 (Pa. 1987).
Notes of Decisions
Applicability to Guilty Plea
The defendant entered guilty pleas, and the sentencing court imposed sentences beyond those recommended in the guidelines without making the requisite statement of reasons for deviation. The sentencing court stated that since the defendant pled guilty, the guidelines do not apply, per § 303.1(b). However, in light of the express provisions of § 303.1(a), which includes those who plead guilty, the failure to provide a contemporaneous written statement of the reason or reasons for the deviation was reversible error. Commonwealth v. Styles, 812 A.2d 1277 (Pa. Super. 2002).
Date On Which Sentencing Guidelines Apply Is a Legal Question
For appellate purposes, the issue of which sentencing guidelines to apply is a legal question and not a discretionary matter; defendant was charged with the offense on date amendments became part of guidelines, therefore the new guidelines are controlling. Commonwealth v. Kimbrough, 872 A.2d 1244, 1263 (Pa. Super. 2005); denial of post-conviction relief affirmed in part, vacating in part A.2d (Pa. Super. 2007).
Deviation from Guidelines
Sentence imposed by sentencing judge pursuant to Pennsylvanias indeterminate sentencing scheme that was within the statutory maximum but exceeded the aggravated range of the sentencing guidelines was not unconstitutional; the statutory maximum is the polestar for constitutional purposes and a judge may impose a sentence outside the guidelines without unconstitutionally increasing the punishment for a crime based on judicially-determined facts as long as the maximum sentence imposed does not exceed the statutory limit. Commonwealth v. Yuhasz, 923 A.2d 1111, 11181119 (Pa. 2007)
Where the sentence substantially exceeded the aggravated range, but was within the statutory limits, and the trial court made the required contemporaneous findings to support the deviation, the Superior Court erred in not allowing an appeal of the sentence to determine if it was excessive. Commonwealth v. Mouzon, 812 A.2d 617 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2002); on remand 828 A.2d 1126 (Pa. Super 2003).
Although deviation from the sentencing guidelines was permitted, the Sentencing Code required that the court place of record its reasons for such deviations. Where the court failed to indicate that it was in fact sentencing appellant outside of the guidelines and failed to provide a contemporaneous statement of its reasons for such deviation, the sentence should be vacated and remanded for resentencing. Commonwealth v. Byrd, 657 A.2d 961 (Pa. Super. 1995).
Although the sentencing code does not address the issue of which guidelines apply where there is a continuing course of criminal activity occurring both before and after amendments to the guidelines are enacted, the court acted within its discretion in sentencing appellant within the guidelines prior to amendment because appellant had engaged in a continuing course of criminal activity which occurred both before and after the enactment of the August 1994 sentencing guidelines. Commonwealth v. Gessa, 26 D. & C. 4th 216 (1995); affirmed 685 A.2d 1042 (Pa. Super 1996).
Effective DatesIneffective Counsel Assistance
Because the sentencing ranges on the Sentencing Guideline Worksheets were calculated according to the amended guidelines which were effective for all offenses committed after August 12, 1994, and appellants crimes were committed prior to that date, trial counsel was ineffective in failing to object to the imposition of sentence based upon erroneous computations under this regulation. Commonwealth v. Henry, 681 A.2d 791 (Pa. Super. 1996); appeal denied 689 A.2d 232 (Pa. 1997).
This section cited in 204 Pa. Code § 303.13 (relating to guideline sentence recommendations: aggravated and mitigated circumstances); and 204 Pa. Code § 307.2 (relating to resentencing guidelines standards).
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