1. Your attorney will be there to ensure your concerns are addressed throughout the proceedings.
Hiring an attorney provides you a confidential source of guidance and information. We can help explain the complicated and frequently frustrating criminal process. We can help explain why certain decisions were made, why certain charges were pressed or dropped. Throughout the proceedings, we can help explain to you the strengths and weakness of certain evidence or charges, and can explain what is happening as motions are made and argued.
2. Your attorney will be your buffer throughout the chaos of a criminal trial.
The defendant will almost certainly have an attorney. That attorney may very well reach out to you, send you letters and demands, or make offers to try to resolve the case. They may even suggest that you are the one who did something wrong. Hiring your own attorney allows you to have a representative that can advocate for you in these situations.
3. We can help “mediate” between you and the CA.
Often, what you want as a victim does not line up neatly with legal remedies. But we can help to understand your priorities, and to present those to the CA in a way that is practical and useful to them.
4. We help prep you for trial so there are no day-of surprises.
We can discuss what a trial day will actually look like for you as the crime victim. The day of trial may be emotionally and mentally draining. We can help prepare you ahead of time, and even attend the trial. If you testify at trial, which is likely, you may not be allowed to sit in through most of the proceeding. This is due to the Rule on Witnesses, which requires that witnesses wait outside the courtroom during the evidence portion of the trial. While there is technically an exception for crime victims, the Judge is allowed to ‘over-ride’ that exception. If this rule applies to you, it would not apply to your attorney, who can be present during trial, and inform you about the proceeding after it has concluded. While your attorney cannot coach you as to “correct” or specific answers to questions, your attorney can help explain how direct examination and cross examination work, so you can be prepared. This is important because cross-examination by the Defendant’s attorney can be jarring.
5. You might have 5th Amendment or self-incrimination issues.
Depending on the facts of the case, there may be Fifth Amendment (“Self-Incrimination”) issues to discuss regarding whether or not you testify at all. There may also be collateral issues such as a pending Protective Orders or civil suits, for instance. Your testimony in one case can be used in another and will impact the outcomes of those other collateral issues. We will help you navigate through that, ensuring that your concerns are addressed.
What Are My Rights As Crime Victim in Virginia?
Virginia has codified some crime victim rights, such as the below:
- Victim and witness protection and law-enforcement contacts.
- In order that victims and witnesses receive protection from harm and threats of harm arising out of their cooperation with law-enforcement, or prosecution efforts, they shall be provided with information as to the level of protection which may be available pursuant to § 52-35 or to any other federal, state or local program providing protection, and shall be assisted in obtaining this protection from the appropriate authorities.
- Victims and witnesses shall be provided, where available, a separate waiting area during court proceedings that affords them privacy and protection from intimidation, and that does not place the victim in close proximity to the defendant or the defendant’s family.
- Financial assistance
- Victims shall be informed of financial assistance and social services available to them as victims of a crime, including information on their possible right to file a claim for compensation from the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund pursuant to Chapter 21.1 (§ 19.2-368.1 et seq.) and on other available assistance and services.
- Victims shall be assisted in having any property held by law-enforcement agencies for evidentiary purposes returned promptly in accordance with §§ 19.2-270.1 and 19.2-270.2.
- Victims shall be advised that restitution is available for damages or loss resulting from an offense and shall be assisted in seeking restitution in accordance with §§ 19.2-305 and 19.2-305.1, Chapter 21.1 (§ 19.2-368.1 et seq.), Article 21 (§ 58.1-520 et seq.) of Chapter 3 of Title 58.1, and other applicable laws of the Commonwealth.
- Victims and witnesses shall be (i) provided with appropriate employer intercession services to ensure that employers of victims and witnesses will cooperate with the criminal justice process in order to minimize an employee’s loss of pay and other benefits resulting from court appearances and (ii) advised that pursuant to § 18.2-465.1 it is unlawful for an employer to penalize an employee for appearing in court pursuant to a summons or subpoena.
- Victims shall receive advance notification when practicable from the attorney for the Commonwealth of judicial proceedings relating to their case and shall be notified when practicable of any change in court dates in accordance with § 19.2-265.01 if they have provided their names, current addresses and telephone numbers.
- Victims shall receive notification, if requested, subject to such reasonable procedures as the Attorney General may require pursuant to § 2.2-511, from the Attorney General of the filing and disposition of any appeal or habeas corpus proceeding involving their case.
- Victims shall be notified by the Department of Corrections or a sheriff or jail superintendent (i) in whose custody an escape, change of name, transfer, release or discharge of a prisoner occurs pursuant to the provisions of §§ 53.1-133.02 and 53.1-160 or (ii) when an accused is released on bail, if they have provided their names, current addresses and telephone numbers in writing. Such notification may be provided through the Virginia Statewide VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday) System or other similar electronic or automated system.
- Victims shall be advised that, in order to protect their right to receive notices and offer input, all agencies and persons having such duties must have current victim addresses and telephone numbers given by the victims. Victims shall also be advised that any such information given shall be confidential as provided by § 19.2-11.2.
f. Victims of sexual assault, as defined in § 19.2-11.5, shall be advised of their rights regarding physical evidence recovery kits as provided in Chapter 1.2 (§ 19.2-11.5 et seq.).
- Upon the victim’s request, the victim shall be notified by the Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services or his designee of the release of a defendant (i) who was found to be unrestorably incompetent and was committed pursuant to Article 5 (§ 37.2-814 et seq.) of Chapter 8 of Title 37.2, committed pursuant to Chapter 9 (§ 37.2-900 et seq.) of Title 37.2, or certified pursuant to § 37.2-806 or (ii) who was acquitted by reason of insanity and committed pursuant to § 19.2-182.3.
- Victim input.
- Victims shall be given the opportunity, pursuant to § 19.2-299.1, to prepare a written victim impact statement prior to sentencing of a defendant and may provide information to any individual or agency charged with investigating the social history of a person or preparing a victim impact statement under the provisions of §§ 16.1-273 and 53.1-155 or any other applicable law.
- Victims shall have the right to remain in the courtroom during a criminal trial or proceeding pursuant to the provisions of § 19.2-265.01.
c. On motion of the attorney for the Commonwealth, victims shall be given the opportunity, pursuant to § 19.2-295.3, to testify prior to sentencing of a defendant regarding the impact of the offense.
- In a felony case, the attorney for the Commonwealth, upon the victim’s written request, shall consult with the victim either verbally or in writing (i) to inform the victim of the contents of a proposed plea agreement and (ii) to obtain the victim’s views about the disposition of the case, including the victim’s views concerning dismissal, pleas, plea negotiations and sentencing. However, nothing in this section shall limit the ability of the attorney for the Commonwealth to exercise his discretion on behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth in the disposition of any criminal case. The court shall not accept the plea agreement unless it finds that, except for good cause shown, the Commonwealth has complied with clauses (i) and (ii). Good cause shown shall include, but not be limited to, the unavailability of the victim due to incarceration, hospitalization, failure to appear at trial when subpoenaed, or change of address without notice.
Upon the victim’s written request, the victim shall be notified in accordance with subdivision A 3 b of any proceeding in which the plea agreement will be tendered to the court.
The responsibility to consult with the victim under this subdivision shall not confer upon the defendant any substantive or procedural rights and shall not affect the validity of any plea entered by the defendant.
- Courtroom assistance.
- Victims and witnesses shall be informed that their addresses, any telephone numbers, and email addresses may not be disclosed, pursuant to the provisions of §§ 19.2-11.2 and 19.2-269.2, except when necessary for the conduct of the criminal proceeding.
- Victims and witnesses shall be advised that they have the right to the services of an interpreter in accordance with §§ 19.2-164 and 19.2-164.1.
c. Victims and witnesses of certain sexual offenses shall be advised that there may be a closed preliminary hearing in accordance with § 18.2-67.8 and, if a victim was 14 years of age or younger on the date of the offense and is 16 or under at the time of the trial, or a witness to the offense is 14 years of age or younger at the time of the trial, that two-way closed-circuit television may be used in the taking of testimony in accordance with § 18.2-67.9.
- Post trial assistance.
- Within 30 days of receipt of a victim’s written request after the final trial court proceeding in the case, the attorney for the Commonwealth shall notify the victim in writing, of (i) the disposition of the case, (ii) the crimes of which the defendant was convicted, (iii) the defendant’s right to appeal, if known, and (iv) the telephone number of offices to contact in the event of nonpayment of restitution by the defendant.
- If the defendant has been released on bail pending the outcome of an appeal, the agency that had custody of the defendant immediately prior to his release shall notify the victim as soon as practicable that the defendant has been released.
- If the defendant’s conviction is overturned, and the attorney for the Commonwealth decides to retry the case or the case is remanded for a new trial, the victim shall be entitled to the same rights as if the first trial did not take place.