ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
HB 156 (PN 121) would uniformly expand the Tender Years Hearsay Act to allow the introduction of hearsay statements made by people 16 years of age or younger, instead of 12 years or younger. Pennsylvania's Tender Years Hearsay Act is a hearsay exception that allows out-of-court statements made by individuals 12 years of age or younger to be entered into evidence under specific conditions. If such conditions are met, the out-of-court statements are admitted into evidence and the defendant would go to trial without the opportunity to have his or her lawyer cross-examine the witness.
Increasing the age of those permitted to admit hearsay statements into evidence enables prosecutors to more easily bypass a defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights, making it possible to secure convictions based on non-testimonial, out-of-court statements. HB 156 would contribute to this enhanced prosecutorial power by permitting more hearsay statements to suffice as evidence with no opportunity for the defense to cross-examine witnesses.
Governor Wolf signed HB 156 into law as Act 29 of 2021.