Legislation sponsored by Senator Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35) that would provide greater rights and protections for victims of sexual assault, was signed into law today by the Governor Wolf.
Langerholc said the governor signed Senate Bill 399, which received unanimous approval in both the House and Senate, will enact a comprehensive bill of rights in Pennsylvania for survivors of sexual assault.
“This legislation mirrors the federal Survivors’ Bill of Rights that was signed into law in 2016,” Langerholc said. “It is time our survivors in Pennsylvania have the same rights the federal law provides. I commend my colleagues for understanding the importance of this legislation and am glad the governor signed it today.”
The legislation provides for basic rights for sexual assault survivors, including:
- Preserving their rape kit, without charge, for the full statute of limitations.
- Being informed of any result of sexual assault evidence kit results, including DNA matches and toxicology reports.
- Being informed, in writing, of policies governing the collection and preservation of a sexual assault evidence kit.
- Upon written request, receiving written notice within 60 days of intended destruction or disposal of evidence.
- Upon written request, being granted further preservation of the kit.
- Being informed of these rights.
- Not being prevented from, or charged for, receiving a forensic medical exam.
In addition, the legislation also includes provisions designed to strengthen Act 164 of 2018, which was enacted from Senator Langerholc’s SB 1209, which addressed the back log of untested rape kits in Pennsylvania.
The governor also signed into law two House bills that mirror legislation Langerholc spearheaded in the Senate.
One bill would amend the Pennsylvania Crime Victims Act to prevent crime victims from being excluded from the trial of their offenders. Under the measure, victims would be able to attend criminal or juvenile proceedings.
Before making such a determination, the court would have to make every effort to permit the fullest attendance possible by the victim. The court would be required to clearly state on the record the reason for any exclusion.
“As a former assistant district attorney, I found it troublesome that victims are not always allowed to attend the entirety of criminal trials,” Langerholc said. “This legislation will bring in line Pennsylvania’s Crime Victims Act with the federal law to ensure that victims’ rights are protected.”
Another bill enacted would toughen Pennsylvania’s Rape Shield Law by expanding the list of crimes in which past sexual conduct of a victim is inadmissible in court to include human trafficking, incest, corruption of minors, and sexual abuse and exploitation of children. It also bars evidence of past sexual victimization.
“These survivors deserve justice, rights and resources. As they attempt to heal, they should not be revictimized by the criminal justice system,” Langerholc said. “Today we strengthen victim rights and provide more justice and resources to those who have been affected. Today, we say your voice will be heard and we stand with you in this Commonwealth.”
Contact: Gwenn Dando (717) 787-5400 firstname.lastname@example.org