Each legislative session thousands of bills and amendments are introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Only a fraction become law, and an even smaller portion receive wide media coverage.
These bills impact the lives of people living in Pennsylvania every day.
Each week The Sentinel will highlight one bill that has not received widespread attention.
About the bill
Beginning around 2013, media reports began cropping up about teens playing the “knock-out game.”
The reports typically showed a youth punching an unsuspecting bystander with the intent of knocking them unconscious.
The incidents reportedly had devastating consequences including at least two deaths being allegedly linked to the unproved attacks.
However, little evidence is available to support the claim of the “knockout game” being a widespread trend.
Rep. Dan Moul, R-Adams County, has introduced a bill to increase the penalty for anyone caught playing the “knockout game.”
“News reports indicate that these attacks are unprovoked,” Moul wrote in a co-sponsorship letter. “Serious injury can result, as can death. The person is often rendered unconscious. The teens target a person who is unaware that the blow is about to come.”
Under House Bill 140 it would be a third degree felony, punishable with up to 10 years in prison, to “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly cause bodily injury or serious bodily injury to another by striking another in the face or on the head with a hand or fist, without provocation, whether or not the victim is rendered unconscious.”
It is currently illegal to walk up to a stranger and punch them in the head or face.
This offense would likely be categorized as misdemeanor simple assault, felony aggravated assault or criminal homicide, with a main difference being the severity of injury.
The bill could effectively make a felony out of what would typically be classified as misdemeanor simple assault if the offender strikes the victim in the “face or on the head with a hand or fist, without provocation.”
On top of the new felony classification, Moul’s bill would allow juvenile defendants to be charged as an adult and processed through the adult court system rather than the juvenile system.
Currently Pennsylvania law allows for, and at times requires, charges against a juvenile be filed in adult court for more serious offenses.