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Committing a crime with a gun in the state of Pennsylvania is like asking for 100 years behind bars, no parole. With the state’s “Mandatory Minimum” sentencing for certain crimes, criminals are being sentenced to 200 sometimes 300 years behind bars with no priors.

LaRue Y. Smith was sentenced to 232-years in prison for sticking up 7-eleven’s around the Philadelphia area. The questions isn’t whether Smith should be punished, but rather should he spend 232-years in jail for a first offense?

In Pennsylvania, crimes carrying “mandatory minimum” sentences include: gun crimes; sex crimes; drug crimes; drunk driving crimes; violent crimes; and others. In these instances, the decision-making power is taken away from judges and the courts, and given to legislatures who could care less about prior offenses or extenuating circumstances. In other words prosecutors end up deciding how much prison time a defendant should receive by determining which charges should be filed.

In a study done by the U.S. Sentencing Commission on the effect of mandatory-minimum laws, Philadelphia lead the nation in convictions under the 924c law. The 924c law says any crime using a gun while committing another “crime of violence” is a federal offense and 25 years can be added on any and every sentence.

Is this fair to someone seeking a trial for a crime they believe they didn’t commit, or is this another instance of the judicial system and legislature failing us?

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