(HARRISBURG) – The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Lisa Baker (R-20), met today to consider five bills aimed at aiding in cyber stalking prevention, protecting care-dependent individuals from sexual assault, safeguarding newborns in need of care, creating increased accountability for court costs, and providing greater transparency for prosecution of certain offenses.
“Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved five important bi-partisan measures that further protect some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society and seek to improve the judicial process,” Senator Baker said. “When it comes to matters of justice, we must make sure that our state laws protect our communities and allow for any crimes to be proportionally and appropriately punished.”
Two measures introduced by Senator Baker received unanimous approval.
Senate Bill 703 prohibits the use of social media and internet platforms to stalk another and increases penalties, especially if the victim is a minor.
“The details of the case that led to the creation of this legislation are immensely troubling and revolting,” Senator Baker explained. “A 13 year old girl was victimized twice by a stalker more than three times her age, identifying a need to clarify the definition of cyber stalking and make sure the sanctions are equal to the seriousness of the crime that can happen in our digital society.
Senate Bill 704 expands the crime of institutional sexual assault by including caregivers engaging in certain sexual activities with care-dependent individuals, eliminating a loophole that permits perpetrators to falsely claim that the victim consented.
“By extending the law to cover those receiving dependency care in a range of facilities, we provide vital protections to countless individuals who fall victim to abuse,” Senator Baker added.
Other legislation advanced to the full Senate for consideration includes:
Senate Bill 305, introduced by Senator Michele Brooks (R-50), adds “urgent care centers” to the list of locations that a parent may leave a newborn without facing criminal liability. Current law provides that a parent is not criminally liable if that parent leaves a newborn in the care of a hospital, a police officer at a police station, or an emergency services provider on the grounds of the entity employing the emergency services provider or otherwise providing access to the emergency services. SB 305 was unanimously passed by the committee.
Senate Bill 516, sponsored by Senator Pat Browne (R-16), removes a hurdle magisterial district judges face when people default in the payment of court costs, restitution or fines, by allowing the delinquent account to be turned over to a private collection agency should the defendant also fail to appear at a hearing to determine their ability to pay. SB 516, as amended, was unanimously passed by the committee.
Senate Bill 588, sponsored by Senator John Gordner (R-27), eliminates confusion in cases where multiple charges are filed from the same criminal episode by clarifying that the prosecution of one offense does not prevent further prosecution if, among other things, the former prosecution was for a summary offense or a summary traffic offense. SB 588 was advanced by the committee by a vote of 12 to 1.
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