Victims’ Rights Bills Receive Final Legislative Approval

A package of bills protecting the rights of crime victims and providing stronger protections for victims of violent offenses received final legislative approval this week, according to Senator Elder Vogel.

“These bills are intended to address a number of serious and dangerous issues facing violence victims,” said Senator Vogel. “We have heard from victims and from victims’ rights advocacy groups and we took their concerns very seriously. I hope these bills are quickly enacted into law and that Pennsylvania will provide these protective measures that victims need and deserve.”

The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 276, which amends the state Constitution to create a crime victims’ “Bill of Rights,” on Wednesday. Since the measure is a Constitutional amendment it had to be approved by the Senate and House during two consecutive legislative sessions before it could go to the voters.

Since the measure was approved during the 2017-18 Legislative Session as Senate Bill 1011 the referendum will appear on ballots across the state this fall.

The measure would ensure crime victims have a constitutional right to notices of hearings and other proceedings, protection from the accused, notice of release or escape, full and timely restitution and other protections to help balance the rights of victims with the rights of criminals.

The Senate approved four additional crime victim bills on Wednesday and sent them to the Governor’s desk for enactment into law.

House Bill 315 criminalizes the act of female genital mutilation. Offenders could be found guilty of a first-degree felony.

Senate Bill 399 provides for a comprehensive bill of rights for survivors of sexual assault.

House Bill 502 would ensure crime victims have the right to attend proceedings unless a judge determines the victim’s testimony could be affected. Current law allows judges and defense attorneys to exclude a witness from court proceedings.

House Bill 504 would prevent rape victims from being questioned in court about prior victimization. Pennsylvania’s rape shield law prevents questioning about a victim’s sexual history for the purpose of attacking the victim’s character, but the law does not extend to prior victimization.

Two additional crime victim bills were approved by the House of Representatives this week and sent to the Governor for enactment into law.

Senate Bill 469 extends the existing Tender Years Exception – which allows certain out-of-court statements to be admissible as evidence – to include individuals with intellectual disabilities or autism.

Senate Bill 479 expands the Tender Years Exception to a wider variety of crimes, including serious sexual offenses. This exception currently only applies in cases of homicide, assault, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, and a narrow number of sexual offenses.


Contact:          Charlie O’Neill            (717) 787-3076

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