Legal Updates

PA Sentencing Matrix

If you are reviewing the Pennsylvania Sentencing Matrix, something has potentially gone wrong in the management of your criminal matter.  Either you tried the case and lost, or you are facing an uphill battle and weighing the possibility of an open guilty plea.  You may be wondering whether a guilty plea would carry the prospect of jail time or just probation.  The PA Sentencing Matrix may have an answer to these questions.

In Pennsylvania, Defendants are sentenced based on the severity of the crime and their prior criminal record. If you are facing a serious offense and have an extensive prior record the DA may ask for a substantial prison term. If the offense is less serious or you have not been previously convicted, the likelihood of lengthy incarceration is substantially reduced.

Seasoned Philadelphia criminal lawyers use the Pennsylvania sentencing guidelines to assess the potential sentence you are facing if convicted. The Guidelines assign a number (“Offense Gravity Score or OGS”) to the alleged crime. Another number is assigned to your prior record (“Prior Record Score or PRS”). A sliding scale is then used to establish guidelines for the case. The guidelines can range from restorative sanctions or probation to a state sentence.


Calculating the prior record score is done by reviewing 204 Pa. Code Section 303.7.

The chart can be used as a frame of reference for weighing an open guilty plea or sentencing following a conviction. Note that violent felony offenses are rated higher than non-violent felonies, and misdemeanor offenses generally carry a recommendation of RS (“restorative sanctions” i.e., probation) without a prior criminal record.  A District Attorney may also deviate below these guidelines in reaching a negotiated guilty plea.  Note that the PA Sentencing Matrix comes into play primarily where there is not an agreed recommendation as to sentence.

The legislature carries higher recommendations (i.e., uses a different matrix) for cases where the defendant possessed or used a deadly weapon.  As you can see from the charts below, additional time is added where a deadly weapon is involved.  Your Philadelphia criminal lawyer may argue that the weapon involved is not a deadly weapon, or was possessed rather than used.  All of these argument may mean the difference between years in jail or being released on probation.

Speak with a Philadelphia criminal lawyer to calculate your Offense Gravity Score (“OGS”) and Prior Record Score (“PRS”).  If both are high, then it may make sense to defer sentencing and/or fight the case.  Speak with an attorney before you use the PA Sentencing Matrix to calculate your own guidelines.  If you have a juvenile record, this may or may not count towards your prior record score. Your case should be evaluated on an individualized basis.

At the Law Office of Mark D. Copoulos we utilize the Pennsylvania Sentencing Guidelines to assess whether a case should be litigated or settled. While it is not the only factor, it is important to understand the consequences of your actions. By looking at the guidelines the defendant has a clear idea of the risk/reward ratio in trying a case. Often times the guidelines favor trying the case where no reasonable offer has been made.

If you are facing serious criminal charges in the Philadelphia area, contact the Law Office of Mark D. Copoulos. We work tirelessly to ensure that your rights are protected. If the Guidelines and other indicators support litigation, we will zealously fight your case before a judge or jury. Call now for a free consultation: 267-535-9776.