Legal Options

Nurses are encouraged to consider filing criminal complaints with law enforcement against perpetrators when circumstances warrant. This will depend on the degree of injury and the perpetrator's cognitive status, as well as the injured person's willingness to testify, since a grueling court case might result in re-victimization.

This course has repeatedly emphasized that a perpetrator's cognitive state does not excuse acts of violence. However, the issues of legal accountability are a different matter entirely. The science of forensic psychiatry is the interface between criminal justice and mental health. Laws vary by jurisdiction and a nurse should seek legal guidance before filing a criminal complaint against a cognitively impaired person.

Ideally, an organization's health and safety policies should spell out the legal and mental health grounds for pursuing criminal action.

Page last reviewed: February 7, 2020