Crime Victims' Rights
All victims of crime have some rights in Pennsylvania. Many of these rights are part of the Pennsylvania Crime Victims Act (18 P.S. § 11.101). (pdf) Other rights may only be available to victims of personal injury crimes. Other rights may only be available when the crime is committed by a juvenile offender. There are also a number of victim rights that were created in other Pennsylvania laws, which are included as links throughout this page.
For many of the available rights, the victim does not have to do anything, other than to report the crime. There are a number of rights that the victim must ask to receive, and some that the victim must register to receive.
In order to receive any information regarding your post-sentencing rights, anything that happens with your case once sentencing is done and the offender is serving a state sentence or on state probation or parole YOU MUST REGISTER with the Office of Victim Advocate (OVA) to receive these rights. If you are not registered with the OVA, you will not receive any more information regarding your case as your local victim advocate does not have access to the necessary information to keep you informed.
Your rights will be provided to you by several different agencies, which include a state or local law enforcement agency, the prosecutor’s office, local correctional facility, Board of Probation and Parole, victim services agencies, The Office of Victim Advocate, the juvenile probation office or the Department of Public Welfare. Who provides specific notifications to you depends on where the case is in the criminal or juvenile justice system. There are some rights that you will need to request in order for them to be provided to you. Some of your rights are listed below:
You have the right to be told about…
• Basic services available to you in your county
• Certain court events, including information on bail, escape of offender, release of an offender
• The details of the final disposition of a case
You have the right to receive…
• Notice of the arrest of the offender
• Information about restitution and assistance with compensation
• Accompaniment to all criminal proceedings by a family member, a victim advocate or a support person
You have the right to provide input into...
• The sentencing decision and to receive help in preparing an oral and/or written victim impact statement
• Post sentencing decisions
OVA will provide for you the following rights if you are registered:
If the adult is sentenced to a state correctional facility, you have the right to be:
• Given the opportunity to provide prior comment on and to receive State post sentencing release decisions, including work release, furlough, parole, pardon or community treatment center placement;
• Provided immediate notice of an escape of the adult and of subsequent apprehension; and
• Given the opportunity to receive notice of and to provide prior comment on a recommendation sought by the Department of Corrections that the offender participate in a motivational boot camp pursuant to the Motivational Boot Camp Act.
Within the parole process you have the right to provide input to the decision makers in your case. This input can be provided in many ways by:
- sending in written comments,
- calling into the OVA and provide oral comments over the phone to a Victim Assistance Coordinator
- scheduling a time for you to provide comments to a hearing examiner.
- scheduling a time for you to provide comments in-person to the Parole Board
In 2013, the law changed allowing for crime victims to physically come into the Parole Board and provide in-person testimony. In order to schedule an in-person testimony you must:
a. Be registered with the OVA and
b. Contact the OVA to schedule your testimony.
Victim's Rights Provided in Other Pennsylvania Laws
Victims in the Courtroom
Victims may not be excluded from a homicide trial based on the fact that they may be providing testimony or an impact statement during the sentencing phase.(42 Pa. C.S. Section 9738).
Victims as Witnesses to Offender Execution
Up to four victims have the right to be present at the execution of an offender in their case, providing the victim has registered with and been selected by the Victim Advocate, Office of the Victim Advocate (61 Pa. C.S. Section 4305).
PA Board of Pardons
If registered with the Office of Victim Advocate, a victim has the right to be provided by the Board of Pardons (BOP) the opportunity to offer prior oral or written comment on any application which has been granted a hearing by the board pertaining to their case. The BOP shall also provide notice of the date, time and place of any hearing pertaining to their case. (71 P.S. 299(d))
Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Violence and Protection from Abuse
Law enforcement agencies shall provide victims of domestic violence and/or sexual violence the following information (23 Pa. C.S. 6105)
Oral and written notice of the availability of safe shelter and of domestic violence /sexual assault services in the community, including the hotline number of domestic violence/sexual assault services.
Written notice that they have the right to file a petition with the court to request an order for protection from domestic abuse (18 Pa. C.S. Section 2711(d).)
In a Protection from Abuse Order, the court may order the abuser to:
· stop any further acts of abuse
· leave the victim's household
· stay away from the victim's home, school or place of employment
· pay support to the victim and any minor child that the abuser owes a duty of support, and
· the court may give temporary custody or temporary visitation of minor children.
Law enforcement agencies must also provide victims of domestic violence, who are protected by a protection from abuse order, notification of the arrest of the defendant for violation of that order as soon as possible, unless the person cannot be located. The notice shall be provided not more than 24 hours after preliminary arraignment (23 Pa. C.S. 6105 (d)).
The person asking for a protection from abuse order cannot be charged any fees or costs by the court (23 Pa. C.S. 6106(b)).
The court must provide forms and clerical assistance in English and Spanish to help write and file the petition for a protection from abuse order with the court if the person is not represented by a lawyer (23 Pa. C.S. 6106(h)).
The court shall provide oral and written information, in English and Spanish, about where the person asking for protection can get help at the local domestic violence program, the local legal services office and the county bar association's lawyer referral service (23 Pa. C.S. 6106(h).
Medical Release of an Offender
Whenever a petition is filed for the medical release of a seriously or terminally ill inmate from state prison or county jail, victims of personal injury crimes committed by that inmate must be notified and given an opportunity to be heard by the court on the petition. The victims must be notified of the outcome of the court’s decision to grant or deny the petition (42 Pa. C.S. 9777).
Crime Victims Have Rights in the Juvenile Justice System
Act 86 of 2000, known as the "Bill of Rights" for Victims of Juvenile Crime became effective on December 29, 2000. Act 86 amended the Crime Victims Act to expand the rights afforded to crime victims of adult offenders to be applicable to victims of juvenile offenders involved in the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice System
The Rules of Juvenile Court Procedure further outline and clarify rules regarding notification of actions and proceedings pertaining to a victim's case such as the date, time, place, purpose and outcome of the proceeding. In general, The Rules of Juvenile Court Procedure for Delinquency Matters have dispensed with offense restrictions in extending notice and comment rights to victims of juvenile delinquency cases.
1. To receive basic information concerning the services available for victims of crime.
2. To be notified of certain significant actions and proceedings within the juvenile justice system pertaining to their case, including:
a. access to information regarding whether the juvenile was detained or released following arrest, and whether a petition alleging delinquency has been filed; and
b. immediate notification of a juvenile’s pre-adjudication escape from a detention center or shelter facility and of the juvenile’s subsequent apprehension.
3. To be accompanied at all juvenile proceedings in accordance with 42 Pa. C.S. 6336 (relating to conduct of hearing) by a family member, a victim advocate or other person providing assistance or support;
4. In cases involving a "personal injury crime" or burglary, to submit prior comment to the prosecutor’s office or juvenile probation office, as appropriate to the circumstances of the case, on the potential reduction or dropping of any charge or changing of a plea in a delinquency proceeding, or, diversion of any case, including an informal adjustment or consent decree;
5. To have the opportunity to offer prior comment on the disposition of a delinquent child, to include the submission of a written and oral victim impact statement detailing the physical, psychological and economic effects of the crime on the victim and the victim’s family. The written statement shall be included in any predisposition report submitted to the court. Victim impact statements shall be considered by a court in determining the disposition of a juvenile;
6. Upon request of the victim of a personal injury crime, to have the opportunity to submit written comment or present oral testimony at a disposition review hearing, which comment or testimony shall be considered by the court when reviewing the disposition of the juvenile;
7. To be restored, to the extent possible, to the pre-crime economic status through the provision of restitution, compensation, and the expeditions return of property that is seized, as evidence in the case, when in the judgment of the prosecutor the evidence is no longer needed for prosecution of the case;
8. If, upon the request of the victim of a personal injury crime committed by a juvenile, the juvenile is ordered to residential placement, a shelter facility, or detention center, to:
a. receive prior notice of the date of release of the juvenile, including temporary leave or home pass;
b. be provided with immediate notice of an escape of the juvenile, including failure to return from temporary leave or home pass; and immediate notice of re-apprehension of the juvenile; and
c. be provided with notice of the transfer of a juvenile, who has been adjudicated delinquent, from a placement facility that is contrary to a previous court order or placement plan approved at a disposition review hearing, and to have the opportunity to express a written objection, prior to the release or transfer of the juvenile;
9. To have assistance in the preparation of, submission of and follow-up on financial assistance claims to the Crime Victims Compensation Program;
10. To be notified of the details of the final disposition of the case, consistent with 42 Pa C.S. 6336(f) (relating to the conduct hearings);
11. Upon the request of the victim of a personal injury crime, to be notified of the termination of the court’s jurisdiction.