Duquesne Law Review


John C. Dowling


Sentencing philosophies and the power to determine a convict's fate have been topics of much debate in recent years. Pennsylvania's experiment with sentencing guidelines, designed to reduce disparity in sentencing, has witnessed a surfacing of tensions between the trial judge, whose foremost concern is to impose a sentence that meets the competing demands placed on him by the community in general and the courtroom participants in particular, and the appellate courts, whose overriding objective is uniformity. As a result, sentencing appeals have often been remanded because of "unexplained deviations from the guidelines." The guidelines were dealt a temporary setback by a recent decision of our Supreme Court which declared them unconstitutional for reasons unrelated to their substance. Though the legislature was quick to reenact them, this decision made it clear that the new guidelines cannot be mandatory without a change in the enabling legislation. Sentencing discretion has thereby been returned to the trial judge, who should no longer be reversed absent a genuine abuse of discretion.

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