New legislation will Expand Protections for Child Testifiers

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HARRISBURG – The governor recently signed into law Senate Bill 479, legislation that mirrors a bill authored by Rep. Rob Kauffman (R-89), to protect more children from the trauma of testifying in court.

Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20) sponsored in the Senate chamber.

“I am pleased that the children of Pennsylvania are gaining greater protection because of our combined efforts in the Legislature,” said Kauffman. “By each chamber authoring this legislation, we strengthened our odds of getting it signing into law.”

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The new law expands the circumstances in which out-of-court statements by a child may be deemed admissible.

Current law is limited to homicide, assault, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, and certain specified sexual offenses. Senate Bill 479 adds child sexual abuse, child exploitation, incest, endangering the welfare of children (if the conduct involved sexual contact with the child), unlawful contact with a minor, corruption of minors and human trafficking to the list of covered crimes.

Kauffman, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the new law is needed to keep pace with new crimes against children added to the state’s Crimes Code.

“This is about making it easier for young children to testify in court in order to hold their perpetrators accountable,” he said.

Senate Bill 479 will go into effect in 60 days.

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