Data compiled annually by the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing reveals that jail sentences given to individuals facing other than the most serious criminal charges have been down during the past two years. More defendants find themselves ordered to complete diversionary programs or alternative forms of punishment rather than receive a traditional jail sentence.
As reported by the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, residents of the Keystone State make up one of the largest populations on probation across the nation. During the year 2018, judges ordered at least 39,000 defendants to carry out their sentences on probation, with the average sentence time a little more than 17 months.
A probation sentence typically comes with terms and conditions
While on probation, an individual must typically meet certain terms and conditions, such as attending a substance or alcohol abuse counseling program, performing community service and staying out of trouble. The penalty for violating a probation sentence’s conditions, however, may result in a much harsher punishment than a prosecutor’s original recommendation.
Violating probation may lead to a new sentence
Reportedly, 22% of individuals on probation during 2018 committed new offenses and received new sentences, half of which included serving time in jail. An offense may include minor infractions such as failing to meet appointments with law enforcement officials, the court or a probation officer. Judges have the authority to revoke a sentence and order an individual to carry out a new sentence when a violation occurs.
A plea deal may provide an avenue to probation
The majority of individuals charged with a crime resolve their case by entering into a plea deal with the prosecutor. Not many defendants go through with a jury trial. By pleading guilty, a defendant may receive a more lenient sentence such as probation. In cases where a defendant faces multiple criminal charges, a plea deal may result in some charges dropped, which could reduce the severity of the punishment.
Bargaining for a lenient sentence, however, requires a strong legal defense, especially when a prosecutor holds reliable evidence of an individual’s wrongdoing.