I have recently received a flurry of questions pertaining to mandatory minimum sentences in Pennsylvania in state court. Basically the questions all sound somewhat the same, “I am being charged with a mandatory drug case and I wonder if there is anyway that I can get around the mando?”
Two separate answers for this questions.
Often times, even in the worst cases, we can fight the case by attempting to “parse” the drugs as our defense. This is normally done as a bench trial, but I have done it in front of a jury. Basically, the argument is that while 500 grams of cocaine were recovered in the arrest, my client was only responsible for 1 gram of cocaine. If this argument works, my client would be found guilty, but of a non-mandatory amount. The key to this defense is to make certain that you will beat the conspiracy charge, because if you are found guilty of conspiracy in the case, all of the weight can be put on each person, so the mandatory will still apply.
The second answer to the question is by getting the client into the Intermediate Punishment Program. Different counties call this program different things. I have heard it called IP, IPP, even Treatment Court. In Philadelphia, everything is different, but basically, the end result of the program is the same. In IP, as I call, you must have some type of substance problem, even if it isn’t the type of substance for which you were arrested. In some IP programs, you can even avoid a conviction altogether. IP may involve some custody, house arrest, work release, or inpatient, but can avoid huge mandatories. Also, there is a new program (2006?) called State IP. In State IP, you go up state for your sentence, but the sentence is drastocally reduced. State IP is great if you are looking at the 5-10 or 7-14 mando. Also, you usually are not eligible for any of these special programs if there is a gun involved in the instant case or if you were ever arrested for a violent crime involving a gun.