Victims of nursing home abuse often forgo pursuing legal cases simply because they are misinformed about what is involved in a criminal or civil case. Below is an explanation of how the criminal justice system works in a nursing home abuse, neglect case in Pennsylvania. Stay tuned for a discussion about how civil nursing home cases are handled in Pennsylvania.
Criminal Nursing Home Cases in PA
Will the victim have to testify in court?
In a criminal nursing home abuse case in Pennsylvania, the victim (injured resident) will file a report with the local police. This usually involves speaking to officers or detectives about what occurred, the injuries, etc. The police department will investigate the criminal conduct and determine whether there is enough evidence to move forward and send the case to the local District Attorney’s office for prosecution.
In sexual assault or sexual abuse cases, instead of speaking to usual officers, the victim will usually meet with officers from a special unit, one tasked with investigation of sex crimes. Most police departments in Pennsylvania have so-called Special Victims Units. For example, the Philadelphia Special Victims Unit would handle a nursing home sexual assault case at a nursing home in Philadelphia County.
Once it is determined that there is enough evidence to move forward, the victim may be called to testify at potentially 2-3 hearings, including trial. In Pennsylvania, criminal defendants have a right to a preliminary hearing, during which the victim may be required to testify, depending on the type of crime, injuries, etc. In addition, if the case goes to trial, the victim will be required to testify at court, either in front of a judge and/or a jury.
It is important to note that not all criminal cases will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s office for prosecution in the criminal courts. If the evidence is insufficient or if the victim is unwilling or unable to testify, the police or District Attorney’s office may decline the case. Whether this occurs depends on the unique facts of the case. In an assault case, where one nursing home resident physically assaults another, the incident may have been captured on video, or may have been witnessed by others. If video surveillance provides a clear shot of the assault and/or eyewitness testimony is solid, the case is likely to move forward.
How long does the case take?
In terms of how long it takes for a criminal nursing home case to be resolved, the answer depends, again, on the unique facts of the case. As a general rule, misdemeanor cases are resolved quicker than felony cases.
Can the perpetrator have contact with the victim?
In most criminal cases, after the perpetrator is arrested and charged with the offense, they will either post bail or otherwise be held in jail. A standard condition of bail is having no contact with the victim. In a nursing home criminal case, this means that the perpetrator is often required to move out of the home, or if the perpetrator is an employee, will not be allowed to return to work.
What is the outcome?
The outcome of a criminal nursing home case will vary. The majority of cases will likely result in a plea agreement, which the District Attorney’s office will discuss with the victim prior to the plea hearing. As a general rule, the more serious the conduct, the more likely the perpetrator will be sentenced to jail time.
If you or a loved one was the victim of nursing home abuse or assault in the Philadelphia area, please call our office for a free consultation. (215) 985-0777
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