The Pennsylvania House passed a bill this week that would stiffen the penalties for home invasions.
The legislation would raise the sentence for breaking into a house with the intent of committing a violent crime to a five-year mandatory minimum. The sentence would jump to 10 years for a second offense.
State Rep. John Sabatina, D-Philadelphia, said he introduced the bill after noticing a rash of break-ins throughout Philadelphia, particularly in the Northeast. He said a woman who lives in his neighborhood was recently assaulted with a hammer during a home invasion.
“That basically opened up my eyes to the need for a bill like this,” he said.
Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware, was one of only two House members who didn’t support the legislation. He said he opposes mandatory minimums because they restrict judges and fail to make communities safer.
“It takes away the ability of a judge to look at the individual circumstances of each case,” he said. “It really ties a judge’s hands and prevents him from doing justice.”
Sabatina said he understands Vitali’s point of view, but that home invasions require a tough response.
“My argument is this crime is so intrusive and so damaging, not only physically but perhaps psychologically, that a five-year mandatory minimum for a home invasion is not outrageous,” he said.
Sabatina’s bill will likely face an uphill battle in the state Senate. Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, is an outspoken critic of mandatory minimums.