Pennsylvania Code & Bulletin
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA

• No statutes or acts will be found at this website.

The Pennsylvania Code website reflects the Pennsylvania Code changes effective through 53 Pa.B. 8238 (December 30, 2023).

204 Pa. Code § 305.1. Preliminary provisions.

§ 305.1. Preliminary provisions.

 (a)  Authorization.

   (1)  As authorized by 42 Pa.C.S. §  2154.7 (relating to adoption of risk assessment instrument), the Commission shall adopt a Sentence Risk Assessment Instrument for the sentencing court to use to help determine the appropriate sentence within the limits established by law for defendants who plead guilty or nolo contendere to, or who were found guilty of, felonies and misdemeanors.

   (2)  The Sentence Risk Assessment Instrument may be incorporated into the sentencing guidelines under 42 Pa.C.S. §  2154 (relating to adoption of sentencing guidelines).

   (3)  The Sentence Risk Assessment Instrument may be used to determine whether a more thorough assessment is necessary and to order a presentence investigation report.

   (4)  The Sentence Risk Assessment Instrument may be an aid to help determine appropriate candidates for alternative sentencing.

 (b)  Definitions. For the purposes of this chapter:

   (1)  ‘‘Actuarial risk assessment.’’ A statistical method of estimating the risk of recidivism; the probability of recidivating is related to the proportion of offenders in a risk category who recidivate.

   (2)  ‘‘Common Pleas Case Management System (CPCMS).’’ A web-based application operated by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts which serves as the source of data for determining number of prior convictions and associated offense type.

   (3)  ‘‘Conviction.’’ An offense for which a defendant pleads guilty or nolo contendere, is found guilty following a bench or jury trial, or is accepted for participation in an authorized diversion program, including Probation without Verdict (relating to 35 P.S. §  780-117) or Disposition in Lieu of Trial or Criminal Punishment (relating to 35 P.S. §  780-118).

   (4)  ‘‘DUI offender.’’ An offender for whom the most serious offense of the judicial proceeding is DUI. The Sentence Risk Assessment Instrument does not apply if DUI is the most serious offense of the judicial proceeding. The Sentence Risk Assessment Instrument does apply if DUI is an offense other than the most serious offense in the judicial proceeding.

   (5)  ‘‘Judicial proceeding.’’ A sentencing hearing in which all offenses for which the offender is convicted are pending before the court for sentencing at the same time. A judicial proceeding may include multiple OTNs.

   (6)  ‘‘Magisterial District Judge System (MDJS).’’ A web-based application operated by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts which serves as the source of data for determining the number of prior convictions and associated offense type following a final disposition by a minor court.

   (7)  ‘‘Minor courts.’’ A court of limited jurisdiction with authority to preside at preliminary arraignments and preliminary hearings, dismiss complaints, conduct trials and/or accept guilty pleas for misdemeanors, and hold cases for trial in the courts of common pleas. This includes Philadelphia Municipal Court and Magisterial District Judges.

   (8)  ‘‘Offense gravity score (OGS).’’ An assignment in the sentencing guidelines reflecting the seriousness of a conviction offense. The OGS assigned to the most serious offense in the judicial proceeding (and if more than one offense, then the offense with the highest OGS, longest statutory maximum, and then the offense entered first in SGS Web) is used to determine the risk factors and associated values to be included in the risk scales.

   (9)  ‘‘Offense tracking number (OTN).’’ A unique identifying number assigned to an entire set of charges related to a conviction. An OTN is generally assigned by the court at the time of arraignment.

   (10)  ‘‘Offense types.’’ The classification of prior convictions and current convictions, including inchoates, as provided follows:

     (i)   Murder;

     (ii)   Danger to person:

       (A)   felonies;

       (B)   misdemeanors;

     (iii)   Sexual:

       (A)   felonies;

       (B)   misdemeanors;

     (iv)   Burglary;

     (v)   Property:

       (A)   felonies;

       (B)   misdemeanors;

     (vi)   Public administration;

     (vii)   Public order;

     (viii)   Firearms;

     (ix)   Other weapons;

     (x)   Drug:

       (A)   felonies;

       (B)   misdemeanors;

     (xi)   DUI;

     (xii)   Other.

 A detailed description of the offense types is located at §  305.6. Any unlisted offense, or any new or amended offense, will be assigned an offense type by the Commission based on the current equivalent offense type.

   (11)  ‘‘Pre-sentence investigation (PSI) report.’’ A report, authorized by the Rules of Criminal Procedure (Pa.R.Crim.P. Rules 702-703), that includes information regarding the circumstances of the offense and the character of the defendant sufficient to assist the judge in determining sentence.

   (12)  ‘‘Recidivism.’’ A re-offense for any crime, defined as a re-arrest for a felony or misdemeanor in Pennsylvania within three years of the imposition of a sentence to the community or within three years of release from confinement resulting in a conviction. Re-offense does not include out-of-state, federal or foreign charges or technical violations.

   (13)  ‘‘Risk assessment instrument.’’ An empirically based worksheet which uses factors that are relevant in predicting recidivism. A risk assessment instrument is often identified with a specific ‘generation’ of development:

     (i)   1st generation. ‘‘Professional judgment,’’ with assessments based on training and experience;

     (ii)   2nd generation. ‘‘Risk assessment,’’ an actuarial assessment of static criminal justice and demographic factors used to estimate risk of re-offense;

     (iii)   3rd generation. ‘‘Risk-needs assessment (RNA),’’ an actuarial assessment of static and dynamic factors and changing circumstances, such as relationships, employment, and substance abuse, used to estimate risk of re-offense and to assess criminogenic needs to be addressed through treatment and supervision;

     (iv)   4th generation. ‘‘Risk-needs-responsivity (RNR) assessment,’’ an actuarial assessment of static and dynamic factors used to match the level of service to the offender’s risk to re-offend; assess criminogenic needs and target them in treatment; and structure the sentence to address the learning style, motivation, abilities and strengths of the offender.

   (14)  ‘‘Risk category.’’ The relative risk of recidivism as compared to other offenders, based on the Sentence Risk Assessment Instrument:

     (i)   ‘‘Typical risk offender.’’ An offender with a risk score of 5 points or greater but less than 12 points who shares characteristics with offenders at typical risk of recidivism. This middle category contains approximately 78% of offenders.

     (ii)   ‘‘Low risk offender.’’ An offender with a risk score less than 5 points who shares characteristics with offenders at lower risk of recidivism. This low category contains approximately 18% of offenders.

     (iii)   ‘‘High risk offender.’’ An offender with a risk score of 12 points or greater who shares characteristics with offenders at higher risk of recidivism. This high category contains approximately 4% of offenders.

   (15)  ‘‘Risk factors.’’ The variables obtained from AOPC or Commission data and determined to be statistically significant in relation to the risk of recidivism. Risk factors selected by the Commission and included in the Sentence Risk Assessment Instrument include:

     (i)   ‘‘Age.’’ Based on Commission data, the age of the offender calculated using date of birth as reported on guideline sentence form and the date the Sentence Risk Assessment Summary is generated.

     (ii)   ‘‘Gender.’’ Based on Commission data, the sex of the offender reported on the guideline sentence form.

     (iii)   ‘‘Number of prior convictions.’’ Based on prior conviction data provided by AOPC, the number of unique OTNs associated with Pennsylvania convictions occurring before the date the Sentence Risk Assessment Summary is generated.

     (iv)   ‘‘Prior conviction offense type.’’ Based on prior conviction data provided by AOPC, all offense types identified for any felony or misdemeanor convictions.

     (v)   ‘‘Current conviction offense type.’’ Based on Commission data, the offense type of the most serious offense of the judicial proceeding.

     (vi)   ‘‘Multiple current convictions.’’ Based on Commission data, more than one current conviction offense in the current judicial proceeding.

     (viii)   ‘‘Prior juvenile adjudication.’’ Based on Commission data, any juvenile adjudication included in the prior record score for the judicial proceeding is used in the risk scales. This may include prior juvenile adjudications that lapse for purposes of the calculation of the Prior Record Score.

   (16)  ‘‘Risk scale.’’ Measures of the outcomes derived from statistical models used to determine the relative risk to recidivate based on identified factors.

   (17)  ‘‘Sentencing Guidelines Software Web Application (SGS Web).’’ A JNET-based application operated by the Commission which includes the modules for Sentencing Guidelines and for the Sentence Risk Assessment Instrument. SGS Web serves as the source of data for determining an offender’s age, gender, current conviction offense type, multiple current convictions and prior juvenile adjudications, as well as determining the most serious offense of a judicial proceeding.

   (18)  ‘‘Sentence Risk Assessment Instrument.’’ The actuarial tool, adopted by the Commission and deployed through SGS Web, used to identify cases for which the guideline sentence form includes the notation ‘‘Additional Information Recommended.’’ The Instrument uses factors that are relevant in predicting recidivism to estimate risk.

 (c)  Findings and Purposes.

   (1)  Findings.

     (i)   As defined in statute, 42 Pa.C.S. §  2154.7(e), the term ‘‘risk assessment instrument’’ means an empirically based worksheet which uses factors that are relevant in predicting recidivism.

     (ii)   The following concerns regarding proposed instruments were consistently raised during public hearings:

       (A)   Distrust of a risk assessment instrument for use at sentencing due to concerns about data quality, including the impact of differential treatment throughout the criminal justice system resulting in racial bias, and the construction and validity of any instrument;

       (B)   Concerns related to the impact of actuarial data on individualized sentencing, including the labeling of offenders based on risk category, the prospect of increased punishment for high risk offenders, and the impropriety of providing information on prognostic risk without including information on criminogenic needs and responsivity.

     (iii)   The Commission analyzed issues related to data quality, construction and validity, including the impact of race and gender, during the development of the instrument.

       (A)   Race is excluded from the instrument, as is county, which many commentators viewed as a proxy for race. The Commission undertook other steps to reduce racial impact, including using convictions rather than arrests. In the final analysis, the accuracy of the instrument is similar across race. To the degree there is a difference in accuracy, Black offenders are favored. This moderate bias in the form of under-estimation of risk for a minority group appears to be accepted in the risk assessment field; these findings are not inconsistent with other demographic impact assessments of risk instruments.

       (B)   Gender is included in the instrument as a risk factor. The ratio of males to females in the sample is 80%/20%. Removing gender has the greatest impact on females, reducing the accuracy of the instrument in predicting female recidivism and incorrectly resulting in fewer females classified as low risk and more females classified as high risk. Removing gender or retaining gender has no impact on the accuracy of predicting male recidivism, because males account for the overwhelming majority of offenders in the sample.

     (iv)   As part of the Evidence-Based Practices Strategic Plan, the County Chief Adult Probation and Parole Officers Association of Pennsylvania has been working with counties to adopt and validate risk and needs assessment tools and to provide training for use in guiding effective supervision and treatment strategies for community corrections.

     (v)   Research supports the finding that judges tend to over-estimate risk of offenders at sentencing, and that professional judgement informed by actuarial data is more accurate than either alone. Research on the use of information on prognostic risks and criminogenic needs to inform supervision strategies for drug offenders supports the use of intensive treatment and supervision, consistent with the alternative sentencing programs identified in the statute, for high risk/high needs offenders, and consideration of reduced duration and intensity of supervision for low risk/low needs offenders.

     (vi)   Under Pennsylvania’s Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 702, the sentencing judge may order a pre-sentence investigation (PSI) report at any time, but shall place on the record the reason for dispensing with a PSI in the following instances: when incarceration of one year or more is possible; when the defendant is less than 21 years of age; or when the defendant is a first-time offender. The Commission found that PSI Reports were ordered in less than one third of all cases, and at varying rates and of varying quality across counties, but rarely included information on criminogenic needs or responsivity. Other assessments and evaluations, including those for drug and alcohol dependency, mental illness, and for sexual offenders, were also ordered.

   (2)  Purposes of sentence risk assessment instrument.

     (i)   To identify individuals, determined to be low risk or high risk using the Commission’s sentence risk assessment instrument, for whom additional information may assist the court in determining candidates for alternative sentencing, such as state intermediate punishment, state motivational boot camp, county intermediate punishment, recidivism risk reduction incentive; appropriateness for problem-solving courts; and the duration and intensity of community supervision or other programs or services.

     (ii)   To assist courts in determining whether a more thorough assessment is necessary and to order a PSI Report as provided in Pa.R.Crim.P. Rule 702(a) or a psychiatric or psychological evaluation as provided for in Pa.R.Crim.P. Rule 702(b), or to request any other assessment or information on criminogenic needs and responsivity to consider prior to sentencing; and in determining whether to dispense with a PSI Report.

     (iii)   Similar to the sentencing guidelines adopted by the Commission, a recommendation to obtain additional information based on the sentence risk assessment instrument is advisory.

     (iv)   The Commission supports the values of transparency and responsiveness in the development and use of empirically-based risk assessment instruments. Information on the development and validation of the sentence risk assessment instrument, including the risk factors, scales and recidivism rates, and all internal and external reports related to construction of the instrument and predictive validity, are published.

     (v)   The Commission expressly disavows the use of the sentence risk assessment instrument to increase punishment, and expressly disavows the use of county risk assessments tools at sentencing that are not designed for use at sentencing, are not transparent or employ static factors rejected by the Commission.



No part of the information on this site may be reproduced for profit or sold for profit.


This material has been drawn directly from the official Pennsylvania Code full text database. Due to the limitations of HTML or differences in display capabilities of different browsers, this version may differ slightly from the official printed version.