The Mazza Law Group, P.C.
3081 Enterprise Drive, Suite 2
State College, PA 16801 August 16, 2013
(814) 237-6255

Your Lawyers, Your Neighbors, Your Friends.™

If you're searching for an attorney in State College, Pennsylvania, chances are you're going through a tough situation. You may feel like no one is on your side, especially if you are considering bankruptcy, have been charged with a criminal offense, or are filing or appealing a Social Security Disability claim. During this difficult time, you need someone you can trust.

At The Mazza Law Group, P.C., we understand your fears and concerns. Our firm dates back 57 years, and our attorneys have the experience needed to help you. We will be by your side every step of the way, protecting your rights and working toward the best outcome for you. We take pride in considering ourselves your lawyers, your neighbors, and your friends.

Legal matters are often confusing and complicated, requiring experience and strategy to successfully resolve. With a highly respected and experienced attorney behind you, you can rest easy knowing that your case is in good hands.

Contact the experienced attorneys at The Mazza Law Group, P.C. in State College, Pennsylvania to protect your rights.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences Imposed Pursuant To Sex Offenses Deemed Unconstitutional In Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, a “mandatory minimum sentence” is a sentence where the lower end of the sentence is dictated by statute – that is – created by the General Assembly.  Specifically, the legislature sets the bottom of the sentence rather than the trial judge, as is the case when mandatory minimums are not in play.  When mandatory minimums are not applicable, the trial judge has broad discretion in imposing a sentence and can craft a sentence to fit a case based on the unique circumstances presented.  When a mandatory minimum sentence is applicable, the only discretion the sentencing judge has is to impose a sentence lengthier than the mandatory minimum, or run sentences concurrently/consecutively to one another.

In Alleyne v. United States, the United States Supreme Court held “facts that increase mandatory minimum sentences must be submitted to the jury” and must be found beyond a reasonable doubt.  For example, if a mandatory minimum were only applicable if a certain weight of drugs were possessed, then that fact would have to be proven and found beyond a reasonable doubt by the jury.  As most mandatory minimum sentences in Pennsylvania only had to be proven by a preponderance of the evidence to the trial judge, not the jury, at sentencing, these statutes were rendered unconstitutional the day Alleyne was decided.  Commonwealth v. Newman, a Pennsylvania Superior Court case interpreting Alleyne, found the trial court could not circumvent Alleyne by empanelling a second jury to decide the factor triggering the mandatory minimum.

In an attempt to cure the defect, prosecutors attempted to simply add the “aggravating factor” such as weight of the drugs possessed to the jury charge, and have the jury make that finding beyond a reasonable doubt along with the underlying charges.  These were the facts in Commonwealth v. Valentine, a recent Superior Court case.  In Valentine, the Superior Court ruled: “In presenting those questions to the jury, however, we conclude…that the trial court performed an impermissible legislative function by creating a new procedure in an effort to impose the mandatory minimum sentences in compliance with Alleyne.”

In Commonwealth v. Wolfe, decided December 24, 2014, the Pennsylvania Superior Court applied the rationale behind Alleyne, Newman, and Valentine to mandatory minimums concerning sex offenses.  In Pennsylvania, 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 9718 lists the mandatory minimum sentences for certain sex offenses, some as high as ten years.  The statute applied in Wolfe required a ten year mandatory minimum sentence as the age of the victim was under the age of 16 and the offense was involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.  These statutes, much like the drug statutes, impose a mandatory minimum due to aggravating factors that are not decided by the jury, and the Superior Court ruled them facially void.[1]

As you can see, the law in this area is vastly changing since Alleyne was decided in 2013.  With such complicated issues, it is extremely important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately if you are charged with a criminal offense that could include a mandatory minimum sentence.  At the Mazza Law Group, P.C., our attorneys are well versed in all sentencing enhancement statutes and follow the case law surrounding this topic closely.

[1] Interestingly, the subsection of Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse Wolfe was charged with had as an element of the offense a finding that the victim was under the age of 16, so all elements of the aggravating statute were actually decided by the jury when they found him guilty of the underlying charge.  Nonetheless, the Superior Court ruled these mandatory minimum aggravating factors could not be “severed” from the penalty enhancement to save the statute from being deemed unconstitutional.

Supreme Court Of Pennsylvania Places Initial Burden At Suppression Hearings Squarely On Government

In a criminal case, one method to keep harmful evidence from reaching the jury or require a dismissal of all charges is to file a motion to suppress.  A skilled defense attorney will know how to identify if these issues are present in your case and how to effectively raise the proper Constitutional challenges. In […]

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Basic Information for Any Estate Plan

signing doument

The Mazza Law Group, P.C. would like you to take a moment and think about their estate plan. Now you may be thinking why do I need an estate plan? Well if you have children, a spouse, own a home or have a retirement fund you need to think about an estate plan. What is […]

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Can your Pennsylvania driver’s license really be suspended if you refuse a blood or breath test while driving a bicycle under suspicion of DUI?

bicycle

Yes!  Every year some Penn State students and visitors to Centre County are charged with DUI while riding a bicycle.  In Pennsylvania, §1547 of the Vehicle Code mandates implied consent to chemical testing when a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe the person is driving under the influence.  If a person is arrested for […]

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Unwanted Sexting And “Revenge Porn” Now Clearly Illegal In Pennsylvania

Young couple

If your girlfriend (or boyfriend) sends you a racy photograph of themselves can you send it on to your friends (or their enemies)?  When school starts in September a new law will make it a crime to disseminate nude or sexually explicit images of a current or former intimate partner if done with the intent […]

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Pennsylvania Federal court declares same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional

Same sex marriage wedding cake

On May 20, 2014, the Honorable John E. Jones III, a U.S. Federal District Court Judge in Pennsylvania, ruled that the statutory ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. Since 1996, Pennsylvania law prevented two people of the same sex from marrying and prohibited the recognition of civil unions and same-sex marriages performed in other states. […]

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You Have the Right to Slow Down: Your Car’s Black Box Speed Data OK to Use in Criminal Case

Speeding vehicle

On June 25th the Philadelphia Superior Court held in Commonwealth v. Safka, that EDR, that is, electronic data recording or “black box” speed data, is admissible in a criminal case to show the speed of a vehicle involved a crash resulting in death. Com. v. Safka, No. 1312 WDA 2012 (Pa Super. Decided June 25, […]

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What’s On Your Cell Phone? Know Your Rights to Cell Phone Privacy

Smartphone Supreme Court decision

A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court wrapped a limited layer of privacy around our cell phones. The New York Times reported, that while the decision will offer protection to the 12 million people arrested every year, many for minor crimes, its impact will most likely be much broader. The ruling almost certainly applies to searches of […]

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Relay for Life

Relay for Life Event

The Mazza Law Group, P.C. is proud to acknowledge the success of the Cajun Cuties and our own Kelly Dobson, Bankruptcy Paralegal.  The Cajun Cuties took first place in Mifflin County’s Relay for Life event helping to raise $18,675.93. Congratulations to all the participants and volunteers that raised money to help the fight against cancer. […]

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Teen Attacker Charged as an Adult – Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Criminal Defense Laws

Child with hand in front of his mouth, with 'help' written on his hand

A Franklin, Pennsylvania, high school student went on a knife-wielding attack in April, leaving 21 students and one security guard badly injured. The attacker used two 8-inch knives to bludgeon and slash his way through the school, before police finally stopped and arrested the 16-year-old young man. He will be tried as an adult and […]

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