Pa. appellate court frowns on sentencing laws

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HARRISBURG — A Pennsylvania appellate court is adding its voice to lower court decisions saying certain state mandatory minimum sentencing laws are unconstitutional.

The Superior Court ruled Aug. 20 that a mandatory minimum law dealing with guns in drug crimes is unconstitutional because it dictates that the judge, not the jury, should decide whether the defendant committed crimes that trigger the sentence.

The case came from Montgomery County, where Assistant District Attorney Robert Falin says his office is likely to appeal to the state Supreme Court. The justices plan to hear arguments on similar cases next month.

Wednesday's decision is believed to be the first time the Superior Court overturned such a law under a year-old U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Superior Court judges say it's up to lawmakers to fix the law.

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