A blog of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section

The General Assembly is in recess until March 11.  For the next three weeks, the House and Senate will be holding budget hearings.

Bills Moving

House

Child Custody: House Bill 414 (O’Neill-R-Bucks) further providing for child custody and child abuse was reported from the House Appropriations Committee and passed by the House. A summary and House Fiscal Note are available. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Removal Of Judicial Officers: House Bill 378 (D.Costa-D-Allegheny) further providing for judicial removal was reported out of the House Appropriations Committee and passed by the House.  A s summary and House Fiscal Note are available.  The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Child Intimidation: House Bill 404 (Marsico-R-Dauphin) providing for the offense of intimidation or retaliation in child abuse cases was reported from the House Appropriations Committee and passed by the House. A summary and House Fiscal Note are available. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Child Abduction: House Bill 286 (Kula-D-Fayette) providing for the prevention of abduction of children was reported from the House Judiciary Committee and Tabled.

Senate

Philadelphia Traffic Court:  Senate Bill 333 (Pileggi-R-Delaware) amending the Constitution to eliminate Philadephia Traffic Court (a summary and Senate Fiscal  Note) are available), Senate Bill 334 (Pileggi-R-Delaware) reassinging the duties of the Philadelphia Traffic Court (a summary and Senate Fiscal Note are available)(amended) were reeported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee and passed by the Senate.  The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

 

House Passes Package of Child Protection Bills

 

The House Tuesday approved a package of three child protection bills, less than a week after they were voted out of the House Judiciary Committee unanimously, said Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin), Majority Chair of the Committee.One year ago, the Pennsylvania House and Senate, working closely with the governor, created the Task Force on Child Protection for the express purpose of comprehensively studying the laws, policies and practices of this Commonwealth to determine how best to reform Pennsylvania’s laws to better address the terrible crime of child abuse.

“I sponsored the House resolution creating this task force because it was evident that no single piece of legislation can solve the problem of child abuse alone,” said Rep. Marsico.

“It will take time fully to digest the many findings and recommendations of the task force,” said Rep. Marsico. “And while some aspects of the task force’s report may take time to enact, the pieces of legislation we passed through the House today were able to be pushed through without delay.”

House Bill 316 (Harhart-R-Lehigh) would create a sustainable funding stream for Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) across Pennsylvania. A CAC offers one location for treatment programs designed to help abused children. These centers bring together doctors, nurses, prosecutors, social workers and law enforcement. This multidisciplinary approach gives abused children the best chance to recover and also provides the most effective way to gather evidence to bring perpetrators to justice.

“There are thousands of child abuse cases in Pennsylvania and the CACs have a proven track record of helping these children,” said Rep. Marsico.

House Bill 316 would establish a grant program supported by a $15 fee assessed on all defendants found guilty of a crime in Pennsylvania. The money (about $2.2 million per year) would be provided to existing CACs and those wishing to establish new CACs. The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency would administer the grant program. Although Pennsylvania has 67 counties, there are only 21 CACs which are currently supported through federal funding, grants, donations and fundraising events.

House Bill 328 (Delozier-R-Cumberland) would require courts have a complete record regarding whether a child subject to a Protection From Abuse (PFA) proceeding has been abused or is the subject of a child abuse investigation.

“The Task Force on Child Protection stated in its report that courts deciding PFA cases need to know whether a child has been abused or whether there is a perpetrator living in the child’s home, to ensure the well-being of the child, and so an appropriate order can be produced,” said Rep. Marsico. “This legislation would amend current law in a way that supports the recommendation by the task force.”

This legislation would require a plaintiff in a PFA case to notify the courts if he or she has knowledge of a child abuse investigation so that the courts will know that a PFA order issued may have a legal impact on the defendant in the realm of child abuse. The petition would also set forth the name of the investigative agency.

House Bill 404 (Marsico-R-Dauphin) would establish the crimes of Intimidation and Retaliation against a Witness, Victim or Reporter of child abuse. This bill would make it a crime for a person who intends to obstruct an investigation or prosecution of a child abuse case to intimidate a witness, victim or reporter from such things as making a report, appearing before a tribunal, providing information, or cooperating by providing information in an investigation or prosecution.

It would also make it a crime to retaliate against a victim, witness or reporter of child abuse. Retaliation occurs when the person attempts to harm another person by committing an unlawful act, or engaging in a course of conduct or repeated acts which threaten a person because they are a witness, victim or reporter.

The bill increases the penalty for intimidation and retaliation and increases it even further if force or violence is used, financial gain is offered, or it is part of a conspiracy or a second offense.

Currently, the law in Pennsylvania only applies to witnesses and victims in a criminal investigation. A report of child abuse does not necessarily start a criminal investigation. This bill will apply criminal penalties for interfering or retaliating against someone in an investigation, even if it has not become a criminal investigation.

NewsClip: House Approves Child Abuse Bills

From Crisci Associates PA Capitol Digest 

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