—Legislation sponsored by Rep. Joe Hackett (R-Delaware) to increase the rights of crime victims to be present during criminal courtroom proceedings was approved by the House of Representatives today.
“I heard from victim rights groups in my district that crime victims are not always allowed to attend the entirety of criminal trials,” Hackett said. “For many years, sexual assault victims in the Commonwealth were present during all proceedings, including the trial of their case. Unfortunately, they are now usually sequestered, before and after testifying.”
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 testimony of the victim will be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at trial.
In addition, the federal Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights 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…” Further, under federal law, any decision by the judge to exclude a victim must be clearly stated on the record.
Hackett’s legislation, House Bill 186
, gives state crime victims the same explicit right to be in the courtroom during criminal proceedings as long as the judge determines the victim’s presence will not materially alter the victim’s own testimony.
“Being present for the trial helps the victim attain a certain amount of closure and shows the offender that the victim will not be intimidated,” Hackett said. “My legislation ensures crime victims are granted the justice, healing and safety they deserve.”
House Bill 186 now moves on to the Senate.
Representative Joe Hackett
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: David Foster