Q: My fiancé had 4 charges against him and it got reduced to 1 charge to an f3 he took the plea bargain that the public defender told him to take. The judge took his plea and said she advises him he might face a possible seven years and a $15,000.00 fine. What does that mean. Will he get probation, or does he go straight to doing that time? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: The Judge must read the statutory maximum a defendant is facing at sentencing but rarely sentences to the statutory maximum. The judges follow a matrix called the “sentencing guidelines” and normally sentence within the guidelines. If they do not sentence within the guidelines, they must state specific reasons on the record for issuing a sentence above or below the guidelines. If they do not they can be appealed. The sentencing guideline matrix factors in the Offense Gravity Score (OGS) based on how serious the crime is and the Prior Record Score (PRS) based on how many and what type of prior criminal convictions the person has. In larger counties such as Allegheny or Philadelphia, having no criminal record or having a minor criminal record can be a probation sentence on a Felony 3. Smaller counties tend to issue higher sentences, but I think with no criminal record or a minor one, probation is possible. You should ask the Public Defender. They do this every day and are very competent. The PD has the guidelines in her head and will know the tendencies of the judge when it comes to sentencing.