Public Policy

Get Involved

*For more information or to express your opinions on these bills, please contact  your legislators.  Please click on the following link to locate your specific legislators: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/.

If you are interested in getting involved with NOVA’s Public Affairs Committee, please contact Julie Dugery at 215-343-6543 or JulieD@novabucks.org.

PA ENACTED LEGISLATION 2016 relating to crime victims

HB 1496 (Stephens) Convicted felons, firearms possession- increases the grading for this offense to a first-degree felony to provide for a maximum possible punishment of 10 to 20 years for repeat offenders or if the person personally possesses the firearm on his person. Signed by the Gov. Nov 3, 2016, Act 134 of 2016, eff. Jan. 2nd, 2017

SB 1062 (Rafferty) Sentencing enhancements in burglary/home invasion, final passage in Senate, May 10, 2016 Referred to House JUDICIARY, May 12, 2016, Signed by Gov. Nov. 4, 2016, Act 158 of 2016, eff Jan. 3rd, 2017

HB1574-Marsico-Anti Hazing legislation, Passed House 11/17, passed Senate, Signed by Gov. May 24, 2016 Act 31 of 2016, effective in 60 days

SB290-Rafferty-PN 1751 Vehicle Code, DUI Interlock, Signed by the Gov. May 25th, Act 33 of 2016 effective immediately with exceptions.

SB166-Greenleaf-expands Expungement of records for non-violent 2nd and 3rd misdemeanors Signed by Gov Feb 16, 2016 Act 5 of 2016, effective Nov 12, 2016

HB2058-Farry-Authorizing blood draws in DUI cases, signed by the Gov. Nov. 3, 2016, Act 142 of 2016, effective immediately with exceptions.

HB2025 includes HB853 (Gibbons), Daniels’ Law-Signed by the Gov. Nov. 4, 2016, Act 165 of 2016 HB853, Daniel’s Law, included as an amendment to HB2025, will provide a sentencing enhancement of up to five years for an accident involving texting while driving that results in a death, or up to two years if there is serious injury. Effective Jan. 3rd, 2017

HB 1581-Corbin-Crime of Strangulation, signed by the Gov. October 26, 2016, Act 111 of 2016, eff. Dec. 25, 2016, sets strangulation as stand-alone crime, allows for accurate tracking of incidents and cases charged, increases grading to Misdemeanor 2, or if PFA is involved, to Felony 1, if repeat offender, to Felony 2.

Restitution Package/OVA Advocacy- Out of the package of bills, which were developed as the result of the Restitution Task Force, only 1 was enacted. Advocates expect to have all the remaining bills re-introduced in 2017.

HB 1167 (Barbin) requires that the amount of any outstanding restitution, court fees, fines, or court costs be deducted from any state income tax refund that otherwise would be remitted to a taxpayer.  Final Passage in Senate July 1, 2016, Signed in House July 1, 2016, Signed by Gov. July 20, 2016 Act 93 of 2016, eff 180 days

State Opioid Crisis-A package of bills aimed at addressing Pennsylvania’s opioid and heroin epidemic was signed into law today by to Gov. Tom Wolf in early November 2016.
Act 122, formerly House Bill 1699, will prohibit a health care practitioner from prescribing more than seven days of an opioid product to a patient in an emergency department or urgent care center, or who is in observation status in a hospital. The measure also will require caretakers to refer patients who show signs of addiction to treatment.
• Act 123, formerly House Bill 1737, will allow for the proper disposal of unused prescriptions and over-the-counter medications.
Act 124, formerly Senate Bill 1202, will require medical professionals to receive continuing education in pain management, identification of addiction and the use of opioids as effective treatment. The law also will require them to check the newly created prescription drug monitoring database each time a patient is dispensed an opioid or controlled substance and to update the database within 24 hours when issuing an opioid prescription.
Act 126, formerly Senate Bill 1367, will limit opioid prescriptions given to minors to a seven-day period, unless there is a medical emergency that puts the child’s health or safety at risk.
Act 125, formerly Senate Bill 1368, will call for a medical training facility to implement key opioid-related curriculum.

Statute of Limitations for Child Sexual Assault Crimes

NOVA advocates that the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse be eliminated both in civil and criminal cases.  The Pennsylvania legislature has proposed a host of bills to do so. Many other states have already eliminated statutes of limitations.

We expect members of the Pennsylvania legislature to propose new legislation relating to statue of limitations in the 2015 session.

Click here (pdf 748KB) to learn why this legislation is so important and why many child victims often report years later.

New Laws Protect Victims of Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking Legislation Update-September 2014

New Pennsylvania laws to protect victims of human trafficking go into effect

Human trafficking is modern day slavery and this crime is happening in Pennsylvania, across the United States and worldwide. Traffickers use force, fraud and coercion to manipulate victims into engaging in commercial sex acts, or labor or services, in exchange for something of monetary value. One of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that the industry generates more than $32 billion per year.   According to the national advocacy group Polaris Project, the average entry of children into sex trafficking is age 12-15 and runaway youth are at high risk for exploitation by traffickers.

Pennsylvania is now on the way to helping end this horrific crime and protect the victims who are exploited by traffickers. Senate Bill 75, introduced by Senator Stewart Greenleaf(R-Montgomery County) and co-sponsored by Sen. Dinniman and Sen. Leach, was passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly on June 30, 2014 and signed by Governor Corbett on July 2, 2014. Now known as Act 105, this legislation is effective as of September 2, 2014. Act 105 amends Pennsylvania’s Crimes Code (Title 18) and Civil Code (Title 42) to revise laws regarding human trafficking. Pennsylvania’s old law did not include a definition of sex trafficking or sexual servitude. Act 105 now includes new definitions of sex trafficking in the Crimes Code, providing prosecutors with important tools to charge traffickers with felony offenses when they engage in conduct that subjects a person to sexual servitude or sex trafficking.  Penalties are increased when the victim is a minor.

Additional offenses are created if a person prevents or restricts an individual’s ability to move or travel by destroying, concealing, or confiscating the person’s passport, immigration or other government documents. The Act also increases fines and penalties against individuals and businesses involved in the crime of human trafficking and adds procedures for seizing and forfeiting assets.  Proceeds from forfeitures and fines will be used to help to fund investigation and prosecution of human trafficking crimes and to establish grant programs and services to victims of human trafficking.

Protections for victims are expanded to ensure that their name is not disclosed during prosecution and requires the court to give “first consideration” for pretrial diversion programs. Act 105 also allows a victim of human trafficking to petition the court to vacate prior convictions where the offense was the direct result of human trafficking.  Act 105 also establishes a civil cause of action so that victims may seek compensatory and punitive damages along with other appropriate relief against their traffickers.

Many groups around the state, including members of the Pennsylvania Human Trafficking Advocacy Work Group, Pennsylvania’s network of rape crisis and domestic violence centers, along with governmental agencies and legislators, are working to develop public awareness and training programs as well as coordinate services for victims of human trafficking. For more information or to become involved with these efforts, contact Julie Dugery, Co-Chair, NOVA Public Affairs Committee at julied@novabucks.org

Human Trafficking Legislation Update-December 2014
Pennsylvania Stakeholders Organize to Implement New Human Trafficking Laws in Pennsylvania

The process to begin implementing Act 105, Pennsylvania’s new law to protect victims of human trafficking got underway on November 12th in Harrisburg.  Members of the Pennsylvania Human Trafficking Implementation Work Group convened to establish a committee structure to organize and direct activities to ensure that Act 105 is enforced in a proactive way across Pennsylvania. Hugh Organ, Associate Director of Covenant House and co-chair of the Philadelphia Anti Human Trafficking Coalition, facilitated the meeting.  Utilizing the Massachusetts Task Force Model, the group agreed to establish four committees, operating as the Pennsylvania Alliance Against Trafficking in Humans (PAATH).

The Administration Committee will provide logistical and staffing assistance for the PAATH, with assistance from Shea Rhodes, Director of the Villanova Law School Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation.

The Public Awareness Committee will be tasked with educating communities about human trafficking, its risks and harms, common tactics and recruitment techniques as well as how to identify human trafficking, and how to contact appropriate service providers and law enforcement.

The Victim Services Committee will be charged with the rehabilitation of human trafficking victims. This group will create statewide best practices for the care of victims with regard to healthcare, housing, employment, education, training, English as a 2nd language, interpreting, child care and immigration and legal services. The Victim Services Committee will also develop a network of service providers made up of state agencies, NGO’s, coalitions and academic researchers.

The Training Committee will create training models on Act 105 for several different types of law enforcement groups across the state, including state and local police, county and deputy sheriffs.  They will also train adult and juvenile parole and probation officers, attorney general agents and the staffs of juvenile detention centers. Those who work in domestic violence, sexual violence and human trafficking shelters will also receive this training in an effort to guarantee the safety of victims within shelters.

These four groups will work in a collaborative manner, meeting several times throughout the year to support the implementation of Act 105.

To learn more about these efforts contact Julie Dugery, Co-chair, NOVA Public Affairs Committee at julied@novabucks.org

Sexual Violence Protection Order (SVPO) – SB 681 now Act 25 of 2014

The majority of sexual assaults are committed by perpetrators known to victims.  Traumatized, and fearful of repeated assaults, many victims of sexual violence are in need of orders of protection to help keep them safe from perpetrators.

After almost a decade of advocacy , the Sexual Violence Victim Protection Act was passed in the General Assembly and signed by Governor Corbett on March 21, 2014

1. The effective date is July 1, 2015. This will help allied stakeholders develop the necessary forms and procedures with the help of PCAR staff.

2. The Act is similar procedurally to the Protection from Abuse Act.

3. Victims eligible for relief under the Act are:

  • Victims of sexual violence
  • Minor who are victims of intimidation which is defined as harassment or stalking committed by someone 18 years of age or older on someone who is under the age of 18.

4. Relief: Prohibits the defendant from having any contact with the victim including, but not limited to, restraining the defendant from entering the victim’s residence, place of employment, business or school. [Importantly] This may include prohibiting indirect contact through third parties and also prohibiting direct contact with other designated persons. Also includes appropriate relief sought by the plaintiff.

5. Standard of proof: Preponderance of the evidence.

6. Duration of the order: Maximum sentence of 36 months, although upon defendant’s release from incarceration, where applicable, a plaintiff may get an extension of the order without proving continued risk.  Check back on the NOVA website for updates as we follow the implementation of this Act.

Click here (pdf 259KB) for additional information from PCAR on why the Sexual Violence Protection Act  is so important.

Child Protection Legislation

The Task Force on Child  Protection was established in Pennsylvania in December 2011 and was charged  with conducting a comprehensive review of the laws and procedures relating to  the health and safety of children. The task force conducted 17 public hearings  and working sessions throughout the Common wealth and heard testimony from  dozens of people about children and youth services operating procedures, children’s  advocacy centers, mandated reporters of child abuse and training for physicians,  school personnel and more.

In November 2012, the task force  issued a 427 page report which listed a number of detailed recommendations for  the both the Child Protection Services Law, which represents the civil side of  the law –and the state’s Crimes Code, the criminal element of child protection  laws. It also recommended adding more professionals to the list of mandated  reporters with a required training element and implementing more child advocacy  centers (CAC’s), which use a multi-disciplinary approach to investigating,  prosecuting and treating child abuse.   NOVA, along with the Bucks County Children’s Advocacy Center, presented  testimony before the task force.  Read NOVA’s testimony and Bucks County CAC’s testimony.

In January 2013, the PA House of Representatives accepted the report and recommendations of the Task Force on Child Protection.  The House and Senate developed a  package of bills and by the end of 2014 session, 22 bills were passed and signed by the governor.  You may review the bills here.

New Law Allows Expert Witness Testimony in Sexual Assault Cases

Sexual assault is one of the most personally violating crimes, and a victim’s response to these crimes is often misunderstood. Thanks to a new state law that took effect August 28, prosecutors in Pennsylvania courtrooms are allowed – for the first time – to call on expert witnesses for factual testimony about the behaviors of sexual assault victims. Pennsylvania is the last state to make this change.

Most jurors do not know that the brain processes and stores traumatic memories differently that any other type of memory.  Hearing clinical information like that from expert witnesses such as physicians, psychologists  and sexual assault counselors will help jurors understand why a victim of sexual violence might have found it difficult to report the crime or remember the details in sequential order.

Expert Witness Testimony bill signing

(Above: At the signing of the Expert Witness Testimony bill are, seated, Police Commissioner Frank Noonan, Gov. Tom Corbett and Rep. Cherelle Parker. Standing are Kris Ballerini, NOVA staff; Julie Dugery, NOVA staff and co-chair, NOVA Public Affairs Committee; Jack Young, NOVA Public Affairs Committee; Leslie Slingsby, director, Bucks County CAC; and Diane Moyer, legal director, PCAR.)

Get Involved

*For more information or to express your opinions on these bills, please contact  your legislators.  Please click on the following link to locate your specific legislators: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/.

If you are interested in getting involved with NOVA’s Public Affairs Committee, please contact Julie Dugery at 215-343-6543 or JulieD@novabucks.org.