English Bill to Fortify Crime Victims’ Rights Passes House
HARRISBURG – Legislation authored by Rep. Hal English (R-Allegheny), which would increase the rights of crime victims to be present during criminal courtroom proceedings, recently passed the House. House Bill 1974 now moves on to the Senate.

“The necessity for the bill was brought to the House’s attention by advocates for victims,” said English. “We were told that defendants frequently ask judges to exclude victims from testimony and often those motions are granted.”

House Bill 1974 is supported by the Office of Victim Advocate of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.

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 the testimony of the victim will be materially altered if the victim hears other testimony at trial. Furthermore, the federal law 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.” Any decision by the judge to exclude a victim must be clearly stated in the record.

Pennsylvania’s Rules of Evidence are more lenient and a judge may exclude a victim from portions of the trial and defendants may request victim exclusion. House Bill 1974 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.

“Allowing the victim to attend the trial helps to give them a sense of involvement in the trial and displays to the offender that the victim will not be intimidated,” added English. “My legislation supports a victim’s wish to be present at trial.”

Representative Hal English
30th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Mike Madry
RepEnglish.com / Facebook.com/RepEnglish

Share |