HARRISBURG - Rep. Aaron Kaufer (R-Luzerne) announced that his legislation, which focuses on the rights of crime victims, is on its way to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk for his signature after its final approval by the House of Representatives today.
Kaufer, a recipient of the 2019 Guardian of Victims’ Rights award, sponsored this bill to address the blatant inequities between offenders and their victims.
“At a time in our nation and state history where crime is up, it’s high time that the scales of justice balance to the rights of crime victims,” Kaufer said. “This legislation will give crime victims access to information that was once unavailable to them should there be a need to bring forth a civil lawsuit.”
House Bill 2525
makes it easier for crime victims to obtain relevant information learned by law enforcement during the investigation of a crime to possibly use that information in subsequent civil legal actions to recover damages for their injuries.
“I would also like to thank Sen. Lisa Baker for her advocacy on this important issue,” Kaufer said. “Her support was crucial to the passage of this legislation.”
“House Bill 2525 is a significant piece of bipartisan legislation that will help crime victims achieve justice in civil court,” said Greg Rowe, Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) executive director. “It improves our record-sharing laws to allow victims to have access to relevant information that they will need to pursue justice and be fully compensated for damages and harm they have suffered as a result of a crime. The PDAA greatly appreciates the commitment of Rep. Kaufer and Sen. Baker to making the system fairer to victims.”
“Rep. Kaufer’s bill significantly assists district attorneys’ offices in removing barriers that historically have frustrated crime victims from attaining justice in civil court,” added Sam Sanguedolce, Luzerne County district attorney. “His legislation recognizes the importance of bipartisan efforts to help victims be made whole because true justice for crime victims often does not end with a criminal conviction. Where victims are entitled to monetary relief, we, as district attorneys, should be permitted to share evidence that would lead to such recovery. Importantly, this bill also allows us to keep confidential information that would be harmful to victims, investigations and the community at large were it to be released. On behalf of law enforcement and prosecutors statewide, I would like to express my gratitude to Rep. Kaufer and his colleagues for their hard work on this vital piece of legislation.”
“We deeply appreciate Rep. Kaufer’s dedication to protecting victims and making sure they can get access to investigative information that is instrumental in proving their civil case,” said Kila Baldwin, Pennsylvania Association for Justice president. “An inability to secure these records led to unjust results in the civil justice system and punished victims of crime and other participants in civil matters. However, House Bill 2525 fixes these issues and levels the playing field.”
While offenders have access to relevant criminal history investigative information due to their status in the criminal case, the crime victim has no legal right to access that very same information about the crime. The legislation creates a simple process by which crime victims can request dissemination of criminal history investigative information which is relevant to a civil action arising out of the crime, provided the victim swears under penalty of law that the information is material and necessary to the civil action. The information can then only be used for the civil lawsuit; any harassing, intimidating or threatening use of the information would be punishable as a crime.
Once a bill reaches the governor’s desk, he has 10 days to sign it into law, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature. If signed, House Bill 2525 would take effect in 180 days.
Representative Aaron Kaufer
120th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives