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05/27/2024 06:09 AM
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20230&cosponId=41653
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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: October 25, 2023 11:01 AM
From: Representative Kyle Donahue and Rep. Kate A. Klunk
To: All House members
Subject: Sentencing Considerations for Child Victim Offenders
 
In the near future, we plan to introduce legislation that seeks to avoid overly harsh and punitive sentences when a crime is committed by a victim of human trafficking. The bill would accomplish this by giving discretion to judges when sentencing child defendants who are also victims of human trafficking or sexual abuse. In these scenarios, judges would have the discretion to depart from a mandatory minimum sentence when the underlying crime was committed against the person who had abused or trafficked the child defendant. 
 
This policy, the Child Sex Crimes Victims Protection Act, was originally titled “Sara’s Law,” in honor of Sara Kruzan. Sara Kruzan's abuser began grooming her when she was 11, and she was 13 years old when she was first sold for sex. At 16, Sara shot and killed her trafficker. She was then sentenced to life without parole, and evidence of her abuse was not permitted to be introduced at her trial. 
 
While psychological research shows that children who have been victimized have real feelings of danger triggered by their abusers, the law does not always recognize this under the existing theory of self-defense. A self-defense claim is usually valid in the law only when the individual feels that “the danger of bodily harm is imminent.” For many child victims of abuse or trafficking, they are not always in danger of “imminent harm” under the legal definition when they commit crimes against their abusers. Nevertheless, sound public policy should dictate that children who commit crimes against their abusers are provided protection from overly harsh sentences.

Even as we seek accountability for these offenses, we must realize that but for the horrific and cruel trafficking itself, the offense never would have happened. Under our proposal, if the judge finds evidence of the defendant being trafficked, they may depart from an otherwise applicable mandatory minimum sentence; suspend all or a portion of the sentence; or refer the child back to the juvenile or family court for more age-appropriate adjudication.
 
Please join us in co-sponsoring this important legislation.
 



Introduced as HB1843