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Proposed Rule Changes for Sexual Assault Victims

New Rule Would Allow an Expert to "Explain" Victim's Behavior

By Attorney Elisabeth Pasqualini, Criminal Law Division Leader, Harrisburg, PA

The House Judiciary Committee recently approved House Bill 1264. House Bill 1264 permits prosecutors to present expert testimony to a fact-finder to "explain" an alleged sexual assault victim's "responses" and "behavior."

Needless to say, I completely disagree with this legislation, if ratified into law. It would essentially allow an expert called by the Commonwealth to vouch for the demeanor, inconsistencies and credibility of a victim that appears and acts "less than credibly" on the stand. The jury is to be the sole fact-finder in assessing credibility from the witness stand. Not an "expert."

An expert is generally one who has knowledge and/or experience beyond that of a lay person. They can explain certain things through this knowledge base, such as a doctor would explain the cause of death of a victim. A credibility determination should not be placed into the hands of an expert. It should remain completely with the jury.

If you have questions about a sexual assault, rape, indecent assault, incest, corruption of minors or indecent exposure charge, contact Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC today.