Public Policy

Marsy's Law
The PA Office of Victim Advocate recently reported:
On June 19, Marsy's Law passed the second and final round of approval when it soared through the Senate with unanimous endorsement. House Bill 276, known as Marsy's Law and sponsored by Representative Sheryl Delozier, now qualifies to appear on the ballot this November for voter approval. 

Currently, Pennsylvania is 1 of only 9 states that does not provide constitutional protections to crime victims. While the accused and convicted have numerous rights codified in the Pennsylvania Constitution, crime victims only have statutory protections. This means that victims have no recourse when their rights are violated. Marsy's Law seeks to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to give crime victims equal rights with those accused and convicted. 

Marsy's Law elevates the statutory rights of victims that exist throughout the state to the constitutional level. This includes the right to: 
   • receive information about their rights and available services
   • receive notification of proceedings and major developments in the criminal case
   • receive timely notifications/changes to the offender's custodial status
   • be present at court proceedings
   • provide input to the prosecutor before a plea agreement is finalized
   • be heard at plea, sentencing or any proceeding that may result in the offender's release
   • restitution 

Marsy's Law does not diminish the rights of the accused or convicted. Marsy's Law simply gives victims a voice in the criminal justice process, not a veto. 

The next step in the process is for Marsy's Law to appear on the ballot for citizen approval in November. There will be a large educational push to the public. You can consider following Marsy's Law for PA on Facebook and sharing status updates and testimony videos. The Office of Victim Advocate is asking that you join them in educating your family and friends on the importance of this issue.

Changes in the Department of Justice Definitions of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

In April 2018, the Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women redefined the terms of domestic violence and sexual assault. The term domestic violence is currently defined as felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse or intimate partner, by a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction receiving grant monies, or by any other person against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person's acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction.

Under the prior administration, domestic violence was defined as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.  Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.

The term sexual assault is currently defined as any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks 
capacity to consent.

Under the prior administration, sexual assault was defined as any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.