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House Co-Sponsorship Memoranda

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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: December 11, 2017 11:28 AM
From: Representative Harold A. English
To: All House members
Subject: Amending the PA Crime Victims Act
In the very near future, I will introduce legislation to amend to the Pennsylvania Crime Victims Act. This legislation was considered in two prior sessions, HB 2646 from the 2013-2014 Session and last session as HB 186. During both sessions, the House passed the bill unanimously but the bill was not considered by the Senate.

The necessity for the bill was brought to the House’s attention by advocates for victims. We were told the 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. I have been told that 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, the 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.

I ask that you please consider co-sponsoring this legislation.
Thank you.

Introduced as HB1974