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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: January 12, 2015 03:32 PM
From: Senator Thomas J. McGarrigle
To: All Senate members
Subject: Amending the PA Crime Victims Act
 
In the near future, I will introduce legislation to amend to the Pennsylvania Crime Victims Act. This legislation was considered last session as HB 2464 and passed the House unanimously, but was not considered by the Senate prior to the end of session.

Advocates for victims assert that victims are not always allowed to attend the entirety of criminal trials. Under both the federal Rules of Evidence and the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence, a judge may exclude a victim from portions of the trial. A defendant may ask that the judge exclude the victim and that the motion is often granted. The defendant argues that the victim should not hear the testimony of others.

Under the federal Crime Victims' Bill of Rights, a victim has a right not to be excluded from a trial unless the court, based upon clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony of the victim will be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at trial. In addition, the federal Crime Victims' Bill of Rights states that the court, before making the determination, “shall make every effort to permit the fullest attendance possible by the victim and shall consider reasonable alternatives to the exclusion of the victim…” Further, under federal law, any decision by the judge to exclude a victim must be clearly stated on the record.

Consequently, my bill is modeled after the federal Crime Victims' Bill of Rights and would amend Pennsylvania’s Crime Victims Act to bring it in line with federal law and expressly grant these same rights to victims under state law.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this important piece of legislation.


Introduced as SB377