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You are here: Home Directory Departments A-G Commonwealth's Attorney An Information Guide For Crime Victims and Witnesses

An Information Guide For Crime Victims and Witnesses

The Victim/Witness Program, located in the Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney, 21 N. New Street, was implemented for the benefit of victims and witnesses of crime. Our program's goal is to reduce any confusion and trauma by explaining the criminal process and providing the services you are entitled to as victims and witnesses of crimes.

You are a very important person, and your role is vital to our criminal justice system. This information acquaints you with the services available to assist you and the steps involved in bringing your case to trial.


When to give us a call

Threats or Intimidation

The Criminal Court Process

Tips on testifying

Other things you should know

Your rights as a victim

Important phone numbers
              A message from the Commonwealth's Attorney

 


Call the Victim/Witness Program at 332-3703 if:


You have any questions about your role as a witness.


You have received crime related threats or harassment.


You would like an explanation of court procedures or a tour of the courtroom before you testify.


Your personal property is being held as evidence, and you want to know when you can recover it.


You want assistance in filing for compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund Act.


You want help in preparing your restitution forms, or you are not receiving restitution payments that were ordered by the Court.


You need to notify us of a change of address or telephone number.


You would like someone to escort you to court.


You would like assistance in preparing your Victim Impact Statement.


You need a referral to social service agencies that provide assistance to crime victims.


You have any questions regarding your case.

  

You just need someone to talk to.

 


Threats or Intimidation

Threatening a witness is a crime in Virginia. If you receive a threat from the defendant or anyone else, contact the Police Department immediately at 332-3842 and notify our office as soon as possible.

 


The Criminal Court Process


Felony Cases: A felony is a major crime that may be punished by a minimum of one year in prison. Felony trials are heard in Circuit Court, which is located on the second floor of Staunton's Courthouse.


Misdemeanor Cases: A misdemeanor is a less serious crime that is punishable by confinement in jail for a maximum of one year, a fine of not more than $2500.00, or both. Misdemeanor trials are heard in General District Court, which is located at 113 E. Beverley Street, and Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court, located at 6 E. Johnson Street, 1st floor.


Subpoena/Summons: A court order directing you to appear in court at a particular time and place.


Preliminary Hearing: This is a proceeding held when a person is arrested for a felony. The preliminary hearing is not a trial. The Judge listens to the evidence of the crime to determine whether it is reasonable to believe that the defendant committed a felony. If the Judge determines that there is sufficient evidence, he will certify the case to the Grand Jury.


Grand Jury: The Grand Jury consists of 7 citizens who meet once in January, April, July and October. These citizens listen to evidence presented by a police officer who covers the facts of the case. The Grand Jury then determines if the evidence is sufficient to indict (charge with a specific crime) the defendant. If charged, the case will then be set for trial in the Circuit Court.


Circuit Court: The defendant stands trial and his guilt or innocence is determined by the Judge or by a jury. Unless the defendant is going to plead guilty, all witnesses are required to appear in court. Witnesses are generally required to remain outside of the courtroom until they have testified. If the defendant is found guilty, he may be sentenced at the conclusion of the trial or at a later date, if a presentence report is ordered.

  

Presentence Report: This report is completed by a probation and parole officer and consists of the defendant's background. A report generally takes 6-8 weeks to complete. A sentencing date is set, upon completion of the report. The Judge will read the report and impose the sentence. You will be notified and may be present during this time.

 


Tips on Testifying


Be prepared: Try to recall what happened and picture the scene in your mind. Writing down the details often helps. However, do not try to memorize your testimony. Just tell what happened in your own words.


Tell the truth: Do not hesitate and try to figure out if your answer is going to help or hurt, this will only hurt your credibility. Just tell the truth.


Do not guess or speculate: If you do not know the answer, simply say so. If you give an estimate, for example, of time or distance, make sure everyone knows this is an estimate.


Speak clearly: Answer questions clearly and loudly enough so that you can be heard and understood.


Answer only the questions asked of you: Do not volunteer information. Stop speaking immediately, if the Judge interrupts or an attorney objects to the question. Do not speak again until the Judge says it is okay.


Dress well and be courteous: The way you dress and present yourself is a direct reflection on you. It is to your advantage to dress neatly and conduct yourself in a courteous manner.

  

Never lose your temper: Holding your temper will make your testimony much more valuable.

 


Other Things You Should Know


Continuances: Sometimes court proceedings cannot take place as scheduled. The victim/witness program will make every effort to notify you in advance, if at all possible. If you have any questions, you may call our office the day before to confirm whether you have to appear.


Victim Impact Statements: If the defendant is found guilty in a felony case, the Judge may withhold sentencing until a pre-sentence investigation is completed. If you are the victim of the crime, you will be given the opportunity to describe what impact the crime has had on your life, in a written statement. Your statement will be included in the pre-sentence report and considered by the Judge on determining the appropriate sentence. The Victim/Witness Director can assist you in preparing this report.


Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund: The Commonwealth of Virginia recognizes the need to provide financial assistance to innocent victims, or their survivors, of a violent crime. Assistance may be given to victims who suffer physical or emotional injury, loss of wages, and reasonable out-of-pocket expenses as a direct result of the crime. If you think you may be eligible, please contact the Victim/Witness Program office for further information or application.


Restitution: You have the right to seek restitution from the defendant for any financial loss that may have occurred as a result of this crime. If you have suffered any loss, itemize and document your loss. Make sure this is brought to attention of the Victim/Witness Director.

  

Dropping Charges: Once charges have been filed, you cannot drop them. Only the Court can do that, and only upon the recommendation of the Commonwealth's Attorney. Such recommendations are made after a full consideration of the evidence, the type of crime, and the past record of the accused.

 


Your Rights as a Victim

If you are a crime victim and have suffered physical, psychological, or economic harm as a direct result of any of the following:


Any Felony

Assault and Battery

Stalking

Sexual Battery

Attempted Sexual Battery
   Driving While Intoxicated

You may be entitled to...

Protection

From further harm and threats of harm
      Separate waiting areas during Court proceedings
Financial Assistance

Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund

Property return
      Restitution for damages or loss
Notification

Case status information

Employer intercession services
      Prisoner release information
Victim Input

Victim Impact Statement preparation
      Courtroom presence during a criminal trial
Courtroom Assistance

Confidentiality of address and telephone number

Interpreter services
      Closed Preliminary Hearing (when appropriate)

 


 

Important Phone Numbers

City of Staunton
Commonwealth's Attorney 332-3976
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney 885-7412
Victim/Witness Director 332-3703
Police Department 332-3842
Magistrate 245-5343
Courts
General District Court 332-3878
Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court 245-5306
Circuit Court 332-3874
Other
New Directions Center, Inc. 332-3878
(domestic violence/sexual assault-help & information)
Child Protective Services 245-5846
VA Dept. of Youth & Family Services 245-5315
Probation and Parole 332-7780

 


A Message from the Commonwealth's Attorney

You have been requested to come into court and relate some facts within your knowledge---to be a witness in a criminal proceeding. The facts you know and the way you communicate them to the court may determine whether or not justice is served in your case.

The American system of justice provides for trials to decide the guilt or innocence of defendants, and trials are impossible without witnesses. It is your duty as a witness to give your testimony when it is needed. Granted, it may not always be convenient for you to leave your home or occupation to spend one or more days in court. However, you should remember that some day you may be a defendant or victim in a trial, and your own case may depend on the willingness of someone to come forward and tell what he knows.

I promise that the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office will do all it possibly can to see that your experience as a witness will not cause you any major inconvenience.

Thanking you in advance,

Sincerely,

Raymond C. Robertson

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