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Being a victim of crime can be a painful and difficult experience. As a victim, or a victim’s family member, you may feel helpless, angry, or fearful. You also may be frustrated and confused by the legal system. There are free services designed to help you recover from the crime and deal with the legal system.
The Right to Choice
As a victim of crime, you have the right to choose some of the ways you participate in the criminal justice system. For example:
- It is your choice to attend hearings.
- It is your choice to speak at sentencing, or send a written or tape-recorded statement, or have someone speak for you.
- It is your choice to receive notice about court dates.
- It is your choice to ask for restitution.
The Right to Victim Assistance
The Victim Assistance Program was created by the Vermont Legislature. The program supports crime victims while their cases move through the criminal justice system.
The Victim Advocate is responsible for helping you understand the court process and supporting you through that process. Victim Advocates are located in each county’s State’s Attorney’s Office, and in the Attorney General’s Office.
Your advocate will help you with your rights, and provide you with:
- Information about your role in the criminal justice process.
- Short-term counseling and support during that process, and referrals for other services.
- Prompt notification of court dates.
- Information on case status.
- Help getting restitution (payment from the offender for monetary losses suffered as a result of the crime).
- Information on how to get protection.
- Personal support by attending court proceedings.
- Help filling out Victim Impact Statements and Victims Compensation forms.
- Help with the return of your property, if it is being held as evidence.
- Help with getting transportation to court.
The Right to Safety
- If you think you are being harassed or intimidated, you have the right to ask the police or prosecutor for protection.
- If you are testifying in a criminal case, you cannot be forced to reveal your address or place of employment on the record, unless the court finds that keeping the information private will hurt the defendant’s case.
If you are a victim of domestic or sexual abuse, you can ask for a Relief from Abuse order, or call the “Safe at Home” Address Confidentiality Program at 1-800-439-8683.
If you are a witness, you may have to give a deposition.
* You may ask for a Victim Advocate and/or a private attorney to be present.
* The defendant may not be there without your agreement, unless the judge orders it.
* The attorneys may not act in ways that harass or intimidate you.
The Right to Information and Notification
You have the right:
- To be notified promptly when a court proceeding involving your case is scheduled, canceled, or postponed.
- To be notified of the court’s final decision.
- To ask for advance notice of the sentencing date.
- To ask for prompt notification of the defendant’s release, escape, recapture, death, pardon, or commutation of sentence. To get this information, you must fill out a Release Notification Form. You can get it from the Victim Advocate, the Department of Corrections, or your local police.
- Victims of sexual crimes have the right to request notification from the Vermont Sex Offender Registry. This office will notify you in writing if your offender changes his address.
The Right to be Heard
- You have the right to attend the sentencing hearing. Your views must be heard and considered.
- If you cannot attend, you may send a written or tape-recorded statement about the impact the crime had on you, and how you feel about the sentence. You can also have someone read this out loud or speak for you.
The Right to Compensation
- You have the right to receive witness fees and mileage costs if you are subpoenaed to testify in court.
- You have the right to seek restitution. To do this you must fill out a Victim Impact Statement about your financial loss. You can get this form from your Victim Advocate, who can also help you fill it out.
Victim Resources and Links
Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services
Deaf Victim Advocacy Services
National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA)
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Department of Corrections, Director of Victim Services
Vermont Sex Offender Registry
Vermont Network Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault
Emergency Relief from Abuse Orders
Child Abuse Hotline
The Vermont State Employee’s Assistance Program
"Safe at Home" Address Confidentiality Program