New sentencing guidelines being developed for domestic abuse in front of child

Jim Melwert
May 29, 2019 - 6:50 pm
Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing vice-chair Todd Stephens runs the commission’s first hearing on sentencing enhancements in Montgomery County Court in Norristown.

Jim Melwert/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Pennsylvania Legislature recently passed a bill that increases penalties for domestic violence if a child is present. Now, the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing is working out the details, and advocates from Montgomery and Bucks counties got to weigh in with that commission. 

State Rep. Todd Stephens is vice chair of the commission, which is tasked with developing the new sentencing guidelines for domestic abuse in front of a child. 

“I heard about so many more needs as it relates to children who are witnesses to domestic violence, you know, ending that cycle of abuse," Stephens said. 

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele testified someone guilty of domestic abuse in front of a child should be required to pay for therapy for that child. 

“Children who have been witnesses are much more likely to be victims later on or perpetrators later on," Steele said. 

There was also testimony about additional penalties for anyone selling fentanyl, a deadly opioid that is much stronger than heroin that is behind many overdose deaths. 

The hope there, according to Steele, is if someone selling drugs knows they could get in more trouble for selling a drug laced with fentanyl, they’ll be more aware of what they’re selling.