Pennsylvania Superior Court Upholds Mandatory Minimum Sentence for Man Convicted on Multiple Counts of Drug Trafficking
A man convicted, after pleading guilty to six-counts of possessing a controlled substance with intent to deliver (“PWID”) and criminal conspiracy, appealed his sentence to the Pennsylvania Superior Court on the basis he was not advised that his convictions were subject to Pennsylvania mandatory minimum statutes. The appellant, Michael Rush, was sentenced to concurrent terms of seven to fourteen years for each PWID count and concurrent terms of five to ten years for each criminal conspiracy count; an aggregate sentence of twelve to twenty-four years in prison. The trial court applied Pennsylvania’s mandatory minimum statute to the PWID charges. The statute considers factors such as the type of controlled substance involved, the amount seized, and the amount of capital used or available for use in the operation; when imposing a fine, the minimum fine may be increased so as to prevent a convicted felon from being able to continue the operation after being penalized. The mandatory minimum statute also increases the minimum sentence when a person has a prior conviction for PWID.
Michael Rush appealed first on the issue that he was not aware he was subject to mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking; had he known, he would have withdrawn his guilty plea. The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that this argument had no merit because the appellant could not show that his claim was preserved for appeal. In order to withdraw a guilty plea, a motion must be made in the trial court. Not only did Rush fail to do so, but the court determined that he could not support a motion with relevant arguments even if he had. Rush’s second issue on appeal is the determination of the mandatory minima applied. The relevant statute provides that a mandatory minimum sentence of four years imprisonment applies to a conviction of PWID with the circumstances in this case. The statute also provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years when a person has a prior conviction for drug trafficking. Rush argued that he did not have a prior conviction before being sentenced on the six-counts in this case. The Court, however, determined that pleading guilty to each count constituted a prior conviction at the time of sentencing. The Court further found that one of the six convictions, although technically his first, was not subject to the four year minimum because at the time of sentencing, Rush had other convictions. Therefore, the Court affirmed appellant’s sentence of twelve to twenty-four years.
Possession of a controlled substance is a crime which carries many harsh penalties. Depending on the quantity of controlled substance you are found to possess, you may even be charged with intent to deliver or drug trafficking. Such charges carry even greater penalties. For example, possessing between 2 and 10 grams of crack-cocaine with intent to traffic carries a minimum penalty of 1 year in prison for a first offense, and 3 years for subsequent offenses. Larger quantities mandate longer minimum sentences as well.
Drug offenses are serious matters which involve serious penalties. If you have been charged with a drug offense, there are many defenses which may be available. Contact a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately, so that your situation can be assessed and a defense to your charges can be developed.