Connecticut Seal

General Assembly

 

Raised Bill No. 6999

January Session, 2017

 

LCO No. 3220

 

*03220_______KID*

Referred to Committee on COMMITTEE ON CHILDREN

 

Introduced by:

 

(KID)

 

AN ACT CONCERNING THE USE OF THERAPY DOGS TO COMFORT CHILDREN TESTIFYING IN CERTAIN CRIMINAL PROSECUTIONS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Section 54-86g of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2017):

(a) For the purposes of this section, "therapy dog" means any dog trained to provide comfort to an individual who has (1) experienced mental, physical or emotional trauma, (2) witnessed, or has been a victim of, an act of violence, or (3) behavioral health care needs.

[(a)] (b) In any criminal prosecution of an offense involving assault, sexual assault or abuse of a child [twelve years of age or younger] under the age of eighteen, the court may, upon motion of the attorney for any party, order that the testimony of the child be taken in a room other than the courtroom in the presence and under the supervision of the trial judge hearing the matter and be televised by closed circuit equipment in the courtroom or recorded for later showing before the court. Only the judge, the defendant, the attorneys for the defendant and for the state, persons necessary to operate the equipment, [and] any person who would contribute to the welfare and well-being of the child and a volunteer team consisting of a therapy dog and a registered handler, as described in subsection (c) of this section, may be present in the room with the child during [his] the child's testimony, except that the court may order the defendant excluded from the room or screened from the sight and hearing of the child only if the state proves, by clear and convincing evidence, that the child would be so intimidated, or otherwise inhibited, by the physical presence of the defendant that a compelling need exists to take the testimony of the child outside the physical presence of the defendant in order to insure the reliability of such testimony. If the defendant is excluded from the room or screened from the sight and hearing of the child, the court shall ensure that the defendant is able to observe and hear the testimony of the child, but that the child cannot see or hear the defendant. The defendant shall be able to consult privately with his or her attorney at all times during the taking of the testimony. The attorneys and the judge may question the child. If the court orders the testimony of a child to be taken in the manner permitted under this subsection, the child shall not be required to testify in court at the proceeding for which the testimony was taken.

[(b)] (c) In any criminal prosecution of an offense involving assault, sexual assault or abuse of a child [twelve years of age or younger] under the age of eighteen, the court may, upon motion of the attorney for any party, order that the following procedures be used when the testimony of the child is taken: (1) Persons shall be prohibited from entering and leaving the courtroom during the child's testimony; (2) an adult who is known to the child and with whom the child feels comfortable shall be permitted to sit in close proximity to the child during the child's testimony, provided such person shall not obscure the child from the view of the defendant or the trier of fact; (3) a volunteer team consisting of a therapy dog and a registered handler, as that term is defined in section 17a-22ee, with whom the child feels comfortable, shall be permitted to sit in close proximity to the child during the child's testimony, provided such team shall not obscure the child from the view of the defendant or the trier of fact; (4) the use of anatomically correct dolls by the child shall be permitted; and [(4)] (5) the attorneys for the defendant and for the state shall question the child while seated at a table positioned in front of the child, shall remain seated while posing objections and shall ask questions and pose objections in a manner which is not intimidating to the child.

This act shall take effect as follows and shall amend the following sections:

Section 1

October 1, 2017

54-86g

Statement of Purpose:

To allow the use of therapy dogs to provide comfort to children who are testifying in a criminal prosecution of an offense involving the assault, sexual assault or abuse of a child under the age of eighteen.

[Proposed deletions are enclosed in brackets. Proposed additions are indicated by underline, except that when the entire text of a bill or resolution or a section of a bill or resolution is new, it is not underlined.]