Wozniaks Legislation to Eliminate Plea Bargains for Gun Crimes, Require Trial by Jury

Harrisburg Jan. 7, 2016 State Sen. John N. Wozniak (D-Cambria/Clearfield/Bedford) will soon introduce legislation to remove the possibility of a plea bargain for any individual charged with using a firearm in the commission of a crime.

One proven way to clean up our neighborhoods is to get drugs and guns off the streets, Wozniak said. Our laws are supposed to deal with threats, not allow criminals who use guns to employ judicial expediency and loopholes to avoid stiff jail sentences.

Wozniak said plea bargains have been used in drug cases involving guns to lessen criminal penalties and avoid mandatory minimum sentences. The result is that a drug dealer who used a gun is back on the streets when they should be incarcerated.

Judges should not have to consider plea agreements when an offense involving a mandatory minimum sentence for a crime involving a gun is bargained away, Wozniak said.

Wozniaks legislation would also require any person who is charged with an offense involving a gun to have a trial by jury. The legislation prevents a criminal defendant charged with using a gun in a crime from waiving his right to a jury trial and opting for a trial before a judge.

Those who use guns in crimes should not be able to have their cases heard by a judge simply to dispose of a case without a jury of their peers sitting in judgment, Wozniak said. Drug dealers and violent criminals who use guns should be judged by the community.

My legislation is intended to take violent criminals who brandish guns out of the neighborhoods, not slap on mandatory minimum sentences, Wozniak said. This proposal will not affect non-violent drug offenders who need treatment and recovery services.

Wozniak has been heavily involved in combating drugs and trying to secure neighborhoods. He is a sponsor of Cambria County Crime Stoppers Push Out the Pusher program. Plus, he has sponsored legislation to educate high school students about the consequences of drug or gun convictions and been involved in the Center for Rural Pennsylvanias statewide study of heroin addiction and treatment and recovery services.

Wozniak said he will seek a hearing on his legislation.