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second degree felony in pennsylvania

What Is a Second Degree Felony in Pennsylvania?

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In Pennsylvania, felonies are divided into three categories. First degree felonies are the most serious. There also are non-categorized felonies with mandatory sentences such as first-degree murder. Second degree felonies include:

  • Incest
  • Indecent assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Burglary – when no one is present in the structure
  • Aggravated assault

Maximum and Minimum Sentences

State law sets out maximum sentences for each felony category. These are used for first-time offenders with no aggravating circumstances in their cases. A conviction of a second degree felony calls for a sentence of not more than 10 years in prison and a fine of $20,000, although a fine is not mandatory. There also are some crimes with mandatory minimum sentences. One example is aggravated assault, generally a second degree felony, which requires a mandatory minimum of 2 years in prison. While every crime in Pennsylvania has its own maximum penalty, judges have significant discretion.

Extended Sentences

Sentencing guidelines in Pennsylvania require judges to determine both a defendant’s gravity score and a prior record score. The more serious the offense, the higher the number for the gravity score, which generally falls between 1 and 11. The prior record score falls between 1 and 5, depending on the particular circumstances of the case. The judge then uses the total to determine the proper sentencing guideline on Pennsylvania’s sentencing matrix. While judges are not required to follow the guidelines, it is unusual to have a significant deviation. Extended, or enhanced, penalties are called for in a number of situations, such as violent crimes and crimes in which firearms are present or used. For example, a defendant convicted of a violent crime such as aggravated assault faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison for a subsequent conviction of a violent crime. Someone who is convicted of a violent crime, and has a record of two or more violent crime convictions, must be sentenced to at least 25 years in prison. Penalty enhancements are also called for when aggravating circumstances are present, such as sexual abuse of children, when a crime is committed as a member of or in association with a criminal gang and when arson involving a structure with 3 or more people or damage of $1 million or more is involved.

Loss of Rights and Benefits

As soon as you are convicted of a second degree felony you will lose the following rights in Pennsylvania:

  • Hold state office
  • Vote
  • Own or possess a firearm – for crimes of violence, drug crimes and other specified crimes
  • Serve on a grand jury
  • Enlist in the armed service
  • Hold most jobs in the healthcare field

The right to vote is stored once a convicted felon has completed his or her sentence. That is not the case with all civil rights lost as a result of a felony conviction in Pennsylvania.

Employment and Housing with a Felony Record

Under Pennsylvania law, an employer may consider an applicant’s criminal record. While state law provides some protection for felons, an employer can cite a criminal record as a reason for turning down an applicant as long as criminal record had some connection to the specific job involved. While Fair Housing laws protect certain classes of people from discrimination, convicted felons are not one of the protected classes.

Clearing Your Record

Expungement of a felony conviction is possible in Pennsylvania under the following circumstances: You have completed your sentence, are at least 70 years old and have maintained a clean record for at least 10 years. The only way to clear your record sooner is with a pardon from the governor. Anyone can request a pardon. However, they are granted in only small numbers. Generally, it is best if a number of years have passed since the crime, for the applicant to have no criminal history during that time and to have a specific and pressing reason for the pardon.

For more information on crimes in the state, see Pennsylvania’s Criminal Code and sentencing guidelines.

The information contained above is for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice you should visit an attorney.

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