ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
In addition to imposing archaic, harmful, and demonstrably ineffective mandatory minimum sentences, HB 1587 proposes flatly unconstitutional changes to our bail system that are astonishingly hostile to the principles that undergird our criminal legal system, specifically those that protect the presumption of innocence and prohibit punishment before trial.
For the offenses enumerated in HB 1587, this bill would:
- Eradicate the constitutional requirement for pretrial release and permit pretrial punishment without any finding of guilt;
- Create an unconstitutional mechanism for automatic pretrial detention;
- Unconstitutionally shift the burden from the Commonwealth to the accused, requiring defendants to prove their future innocence to avoid being imprisoned;
- Violate due process protections against detaining people for probation or parole violations; and
- Violate the separation of powers between the legislature and judiciary by interfering with the PA Supreme Court’s long-standing, unitary authority to create rules governing bail.
Additionally, HB 1587 would:
- Revert to ineffective, expensive, and outdated practice of mandatory minimum sentences. In this bill’s iteration, it would force judges to sentence people to prison for 2, 5, or 10 years or more for possessing a gun, based on their prior or current convictions for other crimes.
- In some instances, it appears the imposition of a mandatory sentence may be illegal, especially where the minimum of 10 years would exceed the statutory maximum of the offense(s) to which it applies.