Sentencing court erred when believing it had to impose a mandatory 5 year sentence for a defendant, convicted of 75 Pa.C.S. § 3802(a)(1), (c)

Commonwealth v Watson, 2017 PA Super 59 (March 8, 2017)

Mr. Watson entered an nolo contendere plea to Driving Under the Influence (DUI) (Second Offense- [Within] Ten Years), 75 Pa.C.S. § 3802(a)(1) and (c) and some other traffic offences, and a PSI and D&A assessment was ordered.  The assessment recommended outpatient treatment, which Mr. Watson received before sentencing. None months later, Mr. Watson was sentenced to the sentenicng court thought was mandatory 5 years sentence under 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3804(d) , to be served as County Intermediate Punishment (CIP) supervision. The sentence was vacated because allocution had not been granted, but two months later, the court reimposed the same sentence. Before the resentencing, Mr. Watson had completed his Repeat Offenders Program and all other recommended treatment. No further treatment was recommended.

Mr. Watson appealed, arguing that, because he completed counseling and assessment pursuant to 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3814, and no further treatment was recommended, the court was not bound by statute to impose a mandatory sentence of five years’ CIP supervision, because the mandatory five years is applicable only if further treatment is necessary, and that, otherwise, the court has discretion with respect to the term of CIP supervision. The Court  reviewed the statute and prior decision, and vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing, ruling the DUI statute and the Sentencing Code can be read together to permit a sentencing court to avoid a mandatory minimum sentence in favor of a sentence of CIP for certain eligible offenders. In other words, even if found in need of further treatment, the court may sentence under the Sentencing Code and avoid the mandatory maximum under the Vehicle Code, provided, of course, the defendant is eligible. The sentencing court was under a misapprehension that it was bound to impose a five-year maximum in Mr. Watson’s case.

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