No victim should have to face the legal system alone. PAAR’s advocates will support and accompany victims through the criminal court process.
Legal advocacy services include:
- Crisis intervention appointments
- Accompany victims to police interviews and preliminary hearings
- Court preparation and accompaniment
- Support throughout the court process to minimize confusion and intimidation of the court system
- Help victims cope with the emotional effects of sexual assault
- Act as liaison between victims and assistant district attorneys, detectives and social service providers
Can I report the assault to the police without prosecution?
Yes. Most local law enforcement will take information without requiring the victim to press charges.
Do I need to hire my own attorney?
No. As the victim of a crime, you become a witness for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Allegheny County District Attorney’s office will provide an assistant district attorney to serve as the lawyer for the prosecution.
How long before we go to trial?
The time can range from 6 months to a year. The length of time depends on the number of cases before the court, delays relating to scheduling conflicts or the need for additional time to prepare for trial.
Will I be identified in the news on TV or in the newspaper?
In Allegheny County, the TV and print media have agreed not to identify the victim.
How do I press charges, and how does the process work?
- Go to the police department within the locality of the assault or call 911.
- The alleged perpetrator is arrested if probable cause is determined.
- The preliminary hearing (to determine if the state has sufficient evidence to take case to trial) takes place 3-10 days following arrest. Victims testify in front of the local district judge, but the perpetrator does not usually testify at this hearing.
- At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, the district judge can then send the case to the Allegheny County Commonwealth Court for trial OR dismiss the charges against the defendant.
- If the case is sent to the Allegheny County Court for trial, the victim will meet with the assistant district attorney for a pre-trial interview approximately four months following the preliminary hearing.
- A trial is held 6-12 months after the preliminary hearing. Victims again testify at this point. Expect postponements.
- The defendant decides whether she/he would like the case to be heard in front of a judge or jury.
- All criminal court proceedings are open to the public.
- The defendant will be found guilty or not guilty.
- If found guilty, sentencing (approximately 6 weeks after trial) is held before the judge and the victim may give a victim impact statement. The court will take this statement of your feelings into consideration when deciding the sentence.
For Juvenile Court
As a juvenile, the perpetrator may be sent to Shuman Center until the detention hearing or released to his/her guardian while remaining under the court’s supervision.
- The detention hearing is held 72 hours after the juvenile’s arrest. This hearing is held to decide whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a juvenile court hearing. If there is not sufficient evidence, the charges are withdrawn and the case is dismissed.
- If the alleged offender is sent to Shuman, the adjudication hearing (judge determines if the juvenile committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt) is held within 10 days. If the alleged offender is not sent to Shuman, an adjudication hearing is scheduled within 60 days. The alleged offender remains on home detention or electronic monitoring.
- If found to be adjudicated delinquent (similar to being found guilty), the juvenile will be given probation and/or sentenced to treatment out of the home.