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PRINTER'S NO. 491
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
HOUSE BILL
No.
503
Session of
2019
INTRODUCED BY EVERETT, KAUFFMAN, MIHALEK, HERSHEY, DUNBAR, MURT,
TOEPEL, ROTHMAN, OTTEN, STEPHENS, IRVIN, MILLARD, PICKETT,
ZIMMERMAN AND PYLE, FEBRUARY 12, 2019
REFERRED TO COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY, FEBRUARY 12, 2019
AN ACT
Amending Title 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) of the
Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in depositions and
witnesses, providing for procedures to protect victims and
witnesses with intellectual disabilities or autism.
The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
hereby enacts as follows:
Section 1. Chapter 59 of Title 42 of the Pennsylvania
Consolidated Statutes is amended by adding a subchapter to read:
SUBCHAPTER E
VICTIMS AND WITNESSES WITH
INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES OR AUTISM
Sec.
5991. Declaration of policy.
5992. Definitions.
5993. Admissibility of certain statements.
§ 5991. Declaration of policy.
In order to promote the best interests of residents of this
Commonwealth with intellectual disabilities or autism who are
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material witnesses or victims of crime, the General Assembly
declares its intent, in this subchapter, to provide, where
necessity is shown, procedures which will protect material
witnesses or victims of crime with intellectual disabilities or
autism during their involvement with the criminal justice
system.
§ 5992. Definitions.
The following words and phrases when used in this subchapter
shall have the meanings given to them in this section unless the
context clearly indicates otherwise:
"Autism spectrum disorder." Any of the pervasive
developmental disorders defined by the most recent edition of
the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM),
or its successor, including autistic disorder, Asperger's
disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise
specified.
"Individual with an intellectual disability or autism." As
follows:
(1) Regardless of the age of the individual, an
individual with significantly subaverage general intellectual
functioning that is accompanied by significant limitations in
adaptive functioning in at least two of the following skill
areas:
(i) Communication.
(ii) Self-care.
(iii) Home living.
(iv) Social and interpersonal.
(v) Use of community resources.
(vi) Self-direction.
(vii) Functional academic.
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(viii) Work.
(ix) Health and safety.
(2) The term also includes an individual, regardless of
age, who has an autism spectrum disorder.
§ 5993. Admissibility of certain statements.
(a) General rule.--An out-of-court statement made by an
individual with an intellectual disability or autism who is a
victim or witness describing any of the offenses enumerated in
subsection (b), not otherwise admissible by statute or rule of
evidence, is admissible in evidence in any criminal or civil
proceeding if:
(1) the court finds, in an in camera hearing, that the
evidence is relevant and that the time, content and
circumstances of the statement provide sufficient indicia of
reliability;
(2) the individual has an intellectual disability or
autism; and
(3) the individual either:
(i) testifies at the proceeding; or
(ii) is unavailable as a witness.
(b) Enumerated offenses.--The following offenses under 18
Pa.C.S. (relating to crimes and offenses) shall apply to
subsection (a):
Chapter 25 (relating to criminal homicide).
Chapter 27 (relating to assault).
Chapter 29 (relating to kidnapping).
Chapter 30 (relating to human trafficking).
Chapter 31 (relating to sexual offenses).
Chapter 35 (relating to burglary and other criminal
intrusion).
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Chapter 37 (relating to robbery).
Section 4302 (relating to incest).
Section 4304 (relating to endangering welfare of
children) if the offense involved sexual contact with the
victim.
Section 6301(a)(1)(ii) (relating to corruption of
minors).
Section 6312(b) (relating to sexual abuse of children).
Section 6318 (relating to unlawful contact with minor).
Section 6320 (relating to sexual exploitation of
children).
(c) Emotional distress.--In order to make a finding under
subsection (a)(3)(ii) that the individual is unavailable as a
witness, the court must determine, based on evidence presented
to it, that testimony by the individual as a witness will result
in the individual suffering serious emotional distress that
would substantially impact the individual's ability to
communicate.
(d) Determination by court.--In making a determination under
subsection (c), the court may do all of the following:
(1) Observe and question the individual, either inside
or outside the courtroom.
(2) Hear testimony of a parent or custodian or any other
person, such as a person who has dealt with the individual in
a medical or therapeutic setting.
(e) Counsel and confrontation.--If the court hears testimony
in connection with making a finding under subsection (c), all of
the following apply:
(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), the defendant,
the attorney for the defendant and the attorney for the
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Commonwealth or, in the case of a civil proceeding, the
attorney for the plaintiff, have the right to be present.
(2) If the court observes or questions the individual,
the court shall not permit the defendant to be present.
(f) Notice required.--A statement otherwise admissible under
subsection (a) shall not be received into evidence unless the
proponent of the statement notifies the adverse party of the
proponent's intention to offer the statement and the particulars
of the statement sufficiently in advance of the proceeding at
which the proponent intends to offer the statement into evidence
to provide the adverse party with a fair opportunity to prepare
to meet the statement.
Section 2. This act shall take effect in 60 days.
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