One Philadelphia state senator is hoping to make a distinct crime out of home invasions, in response to a spate of recent home invasions in southeastern Pennsylvania.
The State Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing in Philadelphia on Thursday to gather input on the legislation from State Senator Mike Stack (D-Phila.).
Stack said he was surprised to learn that home invasion is not a criminal offense already. He said it generally falls under the crimes of burglary and robbery. However, he said his bill would make it a specific crime to enter someone's home knowingly while he or she is in the building, or while the occupant arrives. The criminal charge would be counted on top of burglary and other charges.
Stack said home invasion victims are generally part of vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and those with disabilities.
"We've had a number of cases where people who are vulnerable, who may be new to a neighborhood, or new to this country, or new to a particular city have been held hostage, have been basically bound, held at knife-point and threatened," said Stack. "In [some] cases, there's been a fear of sexual assault."
The legislation would create a one year minimum prison sentence for unarmed home invasion. If the offender were to be carrying a blunt weapon or knife, the legislation would increase the minimum sentence to three years. The minimum sentence would increase to five years if the invader were to wield a gun.
Stack said he's hopeful that the testimony at the public hearing will move the Senate Judiciary Committee Chair to fast-track the legislation for quick passage in the few days remaining in this legislative session.