ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
SB 479 P.N. 498 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. Current law already permits a court, in a criminal or civil proceeding, to admit into evidence an out-of-court statement of a child victim or witness for all crimes enumerated under each of the following types of offenses: criminal homicide; assault; kidnapping; sexual offenses; burglary and other criminal intrusion; and robbery. SB 479 would significantly expand the list of offenses for which hearsay statements may be admitted. Because the ACLU believes that special hearsay exceptions run afoul of the constitutional protections guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment, any expansion of these exceptions only increases the likelihood that a defendant’s rights are violated.
Senate Bill 479 was enacted as Act No. 31 of 2019.