PA Superior Court Declares Firearm/Drug Mandatory Unconstitutional

Under 18 Pa.C.S. 9712.1, a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence applies if a person is convicted of "drug dealing" (i.e. Possession with Intent to Deliver) and a judge determines at sentencing that a firearm was in close proximity to the narcotics. In the Alleyne case, the US Supreme Court held that any element which increases a mandatory minimum sentence must be submitted to the jury and proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The vast majority of PA mandatory sentences are written to only require that those facts be submitted to the judge and proven by a preponderance of the evidence (i.e. greater than 50%).

Today, in Commonwealth vs. Newman, the PA Superior Court declared the drug/gun mandatory sentence at 9712.1 to be unconstitutional. The reasoning applied by the Superior Court should apply to nearly every other drug related mandatory sentence.