HARRISBURG – Rep. Rob Kauffman (R-89), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, joined the governor when a package of bills was signed into law focused on providing better protections to crime victims.
“One of the bills signed into law was based on legislation I authored to protect more children from the trauma of testifying in court,” said Kauffman. “Both myself and Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20) authored similar legislation in both chambers to increase the chance that one of the bills would make it through the legislative process and be signed into law.”
Act 31 of 2019 expands the circumstances in which out-of-court statements by a child may be deemed admissible.
“This is ultimately about making it easier for young children to testify in court in order to hold their perpetrators accountable,” said Kauffman.
Other bills signed into law are as follows:
- Act 21 of 2019 establishes the offense of female genital mutilation, which involves the non-medical and non-necessary cutting of the female genitalia.
- Act 23 of 2019 ensures a victim is permitted to be present in any criminal proceeding unless the court determines the victim’s own testimony would be altered by hearing other witnesses.
- Act 24 of 2019 helps protect victims of rape by preventing prosecutors from bringing up the victim’s sexual history or prior allegations of sexual abuse while prosecuting certain crimes.
- Act 29 of 2019 makes updates to the Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act, including requiring the Pennsylvania State Police to create procedures for anonymous victims and establishing timelines for submitting, testing and storing rape kits.
- Acts 30 of 2019 expands the circumstances under which out-of-court statements may be used by including victims and witnesses with intellectual disabilities or autism spectrum disorder.
“The House Judiciary Committee led the way in championing this package of victim-centered legislation this session,” said Kauffman. “We recognize the need for improved laws regarding crime victims and are continuing to work hard on their behalf.”
In addition to these new laws, the General Assembly approved a proposed constitutional amendment first vetted by the Judiciary Committee to include a victim’s bill of rights, known as Marsy’s Law, in the Pennsylvania Constitution. Voters will have the opportunity to approve the proposed amendment in the upcoming November election.