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Pennsylvania Senate Passes Bill to Change Definition of Crime Victim

The most recent session of the Pennsylvania state legislature featured some contentious debates over various pieces of legislation and issues. Perhaps the most important development of the session was the passage of Senate Bill 897.

The new law expands the definition of a victim of a crime to include nonprofit organizations, businesses and other entities. This is an important change. Previously, only people (and not entities) who were victims of theft could collect restitution. This was the result of a loophole that opened in 2016, when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the Crime Victims Act defined a victim only as “an individual” for the purposes of restitution.

As such, parties could use that loophole to get out of paying restitution to the state in cases involving public corruption. One person who was found guilty of stealing more than $800,000 from Bethlehem Township was able to avoid restitution because, under the law, the township did not qualify as a “victim.” The new legislation was actually written by a Democratic state senator who lives in Bethlehem, prompted in part by that case.

Now, state law officially stipulates that a business, organization or government may indeed be owed restitution when a crime is committed against it.

Work with an attorney to plan your defense

How does this new law affect your case, and what steps should you take to plan a better defense? We encourage you to contact experienced Reading criminal defense attorney David R. Eshelman to learn more about your options.


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