Your Rights and Responsibilities as the Victim of a Crime
As the victim of a crime, you have certain rights and responsibilities. The purpose of this article is to advise you of those rights and to explain your role in the criminal prosecution of the defendant.
Please bear in mind that the rights outlined in this article are not automatic. A victim who
wants to be kept informed of the progress of his case must keep in contact with our office. You must be prepared to fill out certain forms and provide certain information during the course of
the prosecution. It is the victim’s responsibility to speak up and ask questions. A victim who needs help or information can get it. Our office is available to assist you, to answer your questions and provide the needed information.
To talk to the Assistant District Attorney assigned to your case, please call our office at 607-778-2423.
YOUR ROLE IN A CRIMINAL PROSECUTION
It is important to understand the part the victim plays in a criminal case. A criminal prosecution is not the same as a civil suit. In a civil suit, the injured party brings a court action for money damages directly against the person who caused the injury. In a criminal prosecution, charges can only be brought by the District Attorney’s Office, not by the victim. In a criminal case, the victim’s testimony is part of the evidence which the District Attorney (also called the prosecutor) needs to convict the defendant. It is up to the District Attorney to decide if enough evidence exists to charge anyone with a crime and, if so, what the appropriate charge should be. This is to prevent unprovable or unfair charges from being brought against a defendant.
In the normal prosecution of a criminal case, there may be pre-trial hearings, a grand jury presentation, court conferences, a trial or plea and sentencing. In most cases, we call upon the victim to help us prepare for these events. You will also probably have to testify at least once. In a few cases, however, we are able to adequately prepare based solely on the information we gather by reading police reports and the statements of witnesses. Also, in some cases, it is not necessary for the victim to testify. So we may not need to call you as a witness in the case.
YOUR RIGHT TO INFORMATION ABOUT THE CASE
Of course, you may have questions or comments for us. If you do, please call. You may want to advise us about details concerning the crime, the amount of bail you think is appropriate, the sentence you think is warranted or you may have information about restitution. If you
so desire, any information you provide in this regard will in turn be presented to the court as
Even though you cannot order the District Attorney or prosecutor to dismiss a charge, the District Attorney should consult with you prior to disposing of the case or asking for a trial. You have a right to be kept informed of the court proceedings in your case, such as the initial appearance of the defendant before the court and whether the judge set bail or released the defendant in his own recognizance. In addition, you have a right to be informed about available victim protection, compensation and counseling programs.
YOUR RIGHT TO BE FREE FROM HARASSMENT AND INTIMIDATION
You should be aware that unless you are subpoenaed before a court or grand jury, you are not obligated to talk to anyone about this case, including the prosecutor. If you do desire to talk with others about this case, we would appreciate the opportunity to be present during such conversations. You should immediately inform us if anyone attempts in any way to intimidate you regarding you being a witness in this case. You have a right not to be threatened or intimidated – witness intimidation is a crime. Anyone who attempts to stop you or any other witness from testifying by assaulting them, damaging his or her property or threatening to hurt you or a witness is guilty of a felony. Also, if the defendant is out of jail on bail, his bail can be revoked.
If you must appear to testify in court, our office will provide a secure waiting area for you so that you need not have any contact with the defendant or his family and friends except in the courtroom.
At your request, the court may also, for a good cause shown, issue an Order of Protection on your behalf as a condition of the defendant’s release on bail or as a condition of the sentence. Such an Order may require that the defendant:
(a) stay away from your home, school, business or place of employment;
(b) refrain from harassing, intimidating, threatening or otherwise interfering with you or your family;
(c) and in cases concerning family offenses, require that the defendant be permitted to visit a child only at stated periods, or not at all, and to abstain from offensive conduct against the child or against the family or household member or against any person to whom custody of the child is awarded and to refrain from acts of commission or omission which tend to make the home not a proper place for the family or household member.
Our office is available to assist you in obtaining such an Order.
YOUR RIGHT TO THE RETURN OF PROPERTY
If you are the victim of the theft of property and the police have recovered the stolen property, you have a right to the prompt return of your property unless it is needed as evidence in the case. Once the case is finished, the property must be returned to you. You are also entitled to the free replacement of any driver’s license, registration or license plates stolen during the commission of a crime.
YOUR RIGHT TO FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE OR COMPENSATION
At your request, our office will contact your employer and explain the need for you to miss work because of court appearances. Also, if as a result of the crime, you have suffered a financial loss, our office can assist in contacting your creditors to explain that because of the crime, you are unable to work or to meet your financial obligations.
You should be aware that it is against the law for an employer to fire or punish a person who could not be at work because he was subpoenaed to testify at a court proceeding.
New York State has established a Crime Victims Compensation Program. The program is mainly designed to help victims who suffer physical injury as a direct result of a crime. It covers medical expenses and lost wages where the victim would face financial difficulty without help. The program also covers property losses in some cases, and some victims do not need to prove financial difficulty.
For a claim to be accepted, the crime must have been reported to the police within one week and a claim filed with the Crime Victims Board within one year of the crime. The Board may extend these time periods upon a showing of good cause. Awards may be provided in the discretion of the Board as follows:
1. To the victim of any crime, including Driving While Intoxicated, who has suffered physical injury.
2. To a victim 60 years of age or more or a disabled victim who has suffered a loss or damage to articles of essential personal property, or who has incurred transportation expenses in connection with the prosecution of the crime or who has incurred expenses due to counseling as a result of mental or emotional stress resulting from a crime.
3. To a surviving spouse, parent or child, or a person dependent upon a victim who dies as a direct result of a crime.
4. To an individual 16 years of age or less who suffers physical, mental or emotional injury as a result of a crime or of witnessing a crime. Parents, guardians, brothers and sisters of the individual may be eligible.
5. To any person who paid the burial expense of a crime victim who dies as a result of a crime.
The actual expenses for which awards may be made vary and may include unreimbursed medical expenses, cost of counseling, loss of earnings and cost of repair or replacement of essential personal property lost or damaged. To request more information or to file a
Crime Victims Board, Public
Safety Building, Room 115, 511 South State
Street, Syracuse, New York 13202,
(315) 425 2470 or ask our office to provide you with the necessary application form.
YOUR RIGHT TO BE HEARD CONCERNING SENTENCING
A judge cannot sentence a defendant convicted of a felony or sentence a defendant convicted of any crime to probation until he has received a pre-sentence investigation report prepared by the Probation Department. This report will include a “victim impact statement” which contains information about any injury or economic loss suffered by you and your views as to what type of punishment is appropriate. In the case of a homicide, or if the victim is unable to assist in the preparation of the victim impact statement, this information will be acquired from the victim’s family. At your request, a copy of the victim impact statement must be given to you by the prosecutor before the defendant is sentenced.
When a judge is deciding what sentence to impose on a convicted defendant, he may consider ordering the defendant to make restitution to you as part of the sentence. The judge can order the defendant to pay restitution for any loss or damage suffered by you as a consequence of the crime (such as reimbursement for your medical expenses). When a judge orders restitution, you will not have to deal directly with the defendant. Payments will be made by the defendant to the
Probation Department or Parole Department which then transfers the money to you. Upon your request, we will notify you by letter of the final disposition of the case. Should the defendant in this case be sentenced to state prison, you also have the right to submit a written victim impact statement to the State Division of Parole and request notice of the defendant’s release or escape from prison. Our office will provide you with the appropriate forms to file with the Parole Board and Department of Correctional Services.
WHERE TO GET HELP
Please contact the District Attorney’s Office at 778-2423 for information regarding victim assistance programs in our community. As your primary contact with the criminal justice system, our office has available advocates from the Crime Victims Assistance Center and a list of appropriate public and private agencies to which you may be referred.
In the meantime, here are some other telephone numbers you may find useful:
Crime Victims Assistance Center, Inc.
Statewide 24 hour – Hotline for Child Abuse
Statewide 24 hour – Hotline for
En Espanol (9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
Victim Information and Notification
First Call for Help