ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
SB 469 P.N. 476 would expand Pennsylvania's Tender Years Hearsay Act, 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. SB 469 creates a new hearsay exception that would allow out-of-court statements from victims or witnesses diagnosed with an intellectual disability or autism to be admissible as evidence in criminal or civil trials. But SB 469 explicitly removes any age restrictions to this exception — a striking and sweeping extension of this exception. Children twelve years and younger with an intellectual disability or autism would already be covered under the existing Tender Years exception. SB 469 does not offer those children any new protections. Instead, the bill extends well beyond the “tender years” to apply to everyone who meets the criteria, regardless of age. As a result, this exception would no longer be properly termed “tender years,” as it would eliminate the age limitation and would undermine the fundamental rationale for providing such exceptions to hearsay testimony in the first place.
Senate Bill 469 was enacted as Act No. 30 of 2019.