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Seven to Fourteen year sentence for offense with guideline range of 21-27 months was an abuse of discretion.

Beatty was charged with Drug delivery resulting in death; Manufacture, deliver or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver (heroin with fentanyl); Criminal conspiracy to manufacture, deliver or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver; and, Involuntary manslaughter.

After a jury trial, Beatty was convicted of the sole charge of Criminal conspiracy to deliver (heroin with fentanyl). He was sentenced to seven to fourteen years. 

Beatty thereafter filed an appeal, arguing, among other issues, that the trial court abused its discretion when it imposed a sentence of seven to fourteen years in prison for an offense that carried a standard range of sentence of 21 to 27 months and a maximum sentence of fifteen years.

The Superior Court noted that “[w]here, as here, a court imposes a sentence outside of the Sentencing Guidelines, the court must provide, in open court, a contemporaneous statement of reasons in support of its sentence.” Further, the court must “demonstrate on the record, as a proper starting point, its awareness of the sentencing guidelines.” After doing so, “the sentencing court may deviate from the guidelines, if necessary, to fashion a sentence which takes into account the protection of the public, the rehabilitative needs of the defendant, and the gravity of the particular offense as it relates to the impact on the life of the victim and the community, so long as it also states of record the factual basis and specific reasons which compelled it to deviate from the guideline range.”

In Beatty’s case, the Superior Court found that “while the trial court provided its reasons for [Beatty’s] sentence at sentencing, these reasons were advanced to support a sentence in the aggravated range.” The trial court never acknowledged that it was sentencing Beatty outside of the guidelines, nor did it provide a contemporaneous statement of its reasons for such deviation.

Accordingly, the Superior Court concluded that because the statutory sentencing requirements were not met, it was required to vacate the judgment of sentence and remand for resentencing in compliance with the rules. 

The Superior Court then noted that its decision was “not meant to be interpreted as commentary or analysis of the length of the sentence imposed,” but only that “the trial court must fulfill its duty to provide a contemporaneous statement of reasons from deviating from the guidelines at the time of imposition of sentence.”

Therefore, Beatty’s sentence was vacated, and the matter remanded for resentencing.

Commonwealth v. Beatty, No. 426 MDA 2019 (Pa. Super. February 4, 2020).

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