May. 06, 2015

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives today approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin) to enact stronger penalties against those who put children in harm’s way.

House Bill 74 would better ensure that parents, guardians or those charged with the care of a child would face harsher penalties in cases of child endangerment if the child was under the age of 6, if the endangerment resulted in serious injury or death, or if the endangerment was part of a continuing course of conduct.

“This legislation was brought to me by Franklin County District Attorney Matt Fogal, who when dealing with a local case involving the death of an infant, felt the punishment did not accurately fit the crime,” said Kauffman. “I was pleased to work with the district attorney to draft changes in the law and bring them before the General Assembly.”

The Franklin County case that was the catalyst for the legislation happened in 2010 when an 11-month-old boy was killed by a 9-year-old girl while being looked after by an adult caregiver. Although the girl was charged and went through the juvenile court system, the adult faced lesser charges, due to limitations in the current law.

“This was a terrible tragedy; however, it has served as an obvious example of a gap in our law in which people who are derelict in their duties as caregivers are not being adequately punished,” said Kauffman. “We are talking about children younger than 6 years old, who need diligent adult supervision. We need to make sure those most vulnerable in our society are being adequately protected, and that those who fail in their responsibility to care for and protect a child are held accountable.”

House Bill 74 would make the following changes to the current law:
• An offense would be a third-degree felony if the person’s conduct created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury.
• An offense would be a second-degree felony if the person’s conduct created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury and was part of a course of conduct.
• The grading for any offense would be increased one level if the child victim is under the age of 6 at the time of the offense.

Currently, a person who endangers the welfare of a child under the age of 18 can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, and if the conduct is part of a continuing course of conduct, the offense is graded as a third-degree felony.

“The protection of our children is a serious matter and I am pleased that my colleagues in the House have joined me in passing this legislation,” said Kauffman “I am hopeful the Senate will agree with the importance of this bill and provide swift passage in that chamber. Nothing is more important than the welfare of our children.”

House Bill 74 now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

Representative Rob Kauffman
89th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Tricia Lehman