October 19, 2012: The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) praised the Pennsylvania State Senate and House of Representatives for using their final session days to focus on criminal justice and public safety matters that will help law enforcement catch up with technology and criminals. The new laws provide appropriate sentences for juveniles convicted of murder, restore tough sentences against straw purchasers of illegal guns, update the Wiretap Law, provide a more rational teen sexting law, and reinvest savings from the Department of Corrections and Board of Probation and Parole.
“District Attorneys throughout Pennsylvania are grateful that the House and Senate shared our priorities to enable police and prosecutors to catch up with new technology, effectively punish criminals and continue to support victims of crime,” said PDAA President and Adams County District Attorney Shawn Wagner. “We look forward to Governor Tom Corbett’s final approval of these bills which will comprehensively improve Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system.”
The newly-passed bills PDAA considered among its priorities were: updating the state’s wiretap laws to reflect new technologies being used by criminals (H.B. 2400); downgrading the offense of teenage sexting from a felony to a misdemeanor or summary (H.B. 815); restoring a 5 year minimum mandatory sentence for straw purchasers of illegal handguns (H.B. 898); providing tough yet appropriate sentences for those juveniles convicted of murder in response to the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama (S.B. 850), and using some of the cost savings from prior prison reform legislation to prevent recidivism and be smarter on crime (H.B. 135).
“The Legislature deserves enormous credit for its comprehensive, bipartisan work to protect victims and support law enforcement,” said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams who chairs the PDAA Legislative Committee. “In particular, the bills improving our Wiretap Act, providing tough and appropriate sentences for juveniles convicted of murder, and restoring a 5 year mandatory minimum sentence for straw purchasers of illegal handguns, will very quickly help to protect Pennsylvanians.”
“I want to particularly thank all four Judiciary Chairmen, House Chairman Ron Marsico, House Democratic Chair Tom Caltagirone, Senate Judiciary Chair Stewart Greenleaf and Senate Democratic chair Daylin Leach, and their committees’ members and staff, who spent countless hours working through tough and complicated issues in order to ensure we not only addressed the issues, but got them right.”
Earlier this legislative session, Governor Corbett signed several other important bills considered priorities by PDAA, police and victims, including: a ban on dangerous synthetic drugs; closing loopholes in Megan’s Law which registers sex offenders; controlling corrections costs in a manner that is consistent with reducing recidivism; holding drug dealers accountable when they sell lethal doses of illegal drugs; restoring funds to the Victims of Juvenile Offenders program; allowing experts to testify in rape and other sexual assault cases to explain victim behavior; and closing loopholes that had incentivized drunk drivers to leave the scene of an accident.