HARRISBURG, Pa (WTAJ) — Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation Friday that guarantees crime victims access to court proceedings in their cases.
Sponsored by Representative John Hershey (R-Franklin/Juniata/Mifflin), the new law ensures victims have the right to attend the proceedings unless a judge determines the victim’s future testimony could be affected by what he or she hears.
Hershey’s House Bill 502 is now Act 23 of 2019. It amends the Crime Victims Act.
“I thank the Senate for recognizing the value in this legislation and passing it unanimously. I am also grateful the governor quickly signed the bill so that we can empower crime victims who want to face their perpetrators in a courtroom,” said Hershey. “It is a good day in Pennsylvania when we can support people who may be in the most vulnerable time of their lives.”
Before Act 23, the prosecution, defense or judge could request a witness or victim be excluded from court proceedings, preventing him or her from hearing other witnesses.
Any exclusion must now be stated in the court record, and a judge must make every effort to notify a victim that he or she has the right to attend the trial.
“The support shown to this bill, the feedback I’ve received and the buy-in from stakeholders tell me that these guarantees to victims needed to be formalized into law,” Hershey said.