Victim Statutory Rights
The Virginia's Victim and Witness Rights Act (sometimes called the Victims Bill of Rights) can be found in Virginia Code Section 19.2-11.01. This Act recognize those who have suffered physical, emotional and/or financial harm as a direct result of a crime or certain delinquent acts. These victims’ rights laws focus on the provision of information and assistance to victims as their cases proceed through the criminal justice process.
The purpose of this Act is to ensure: that the full impact of crime is brought to the attention of the court; victim privacy is protected as much as possible; victim/witnesses are treated with dignity, respect and sensitivity; that victims/witnesses have the opportunity to be heard by law enforcement, attorneys for the Commonwealth and judiciary agencies to the extent permissible under law; that they know their rights and receive authorized services when available.
It is the responsibility of each locality's crime Victim/Witness Assistance Program to provide the information and assistance required under this Act, and they can also provide information, support, and assistance to victims outside the formal criminal justice process.
Generally, victims statutory rights and responsibilities fall within the following areas: Protection, Financial Assistance, Notice of Court Dates and Other Court-Related Assistance, Victim Input, and Post-Trial Assistance and Other Notices.
Definition of Victim
The Victims Bill of Rights and most other victims’ rights laws recognize the following individuals as crime victims in Virginia: Anyone suffering physical, emotional or financial harm as a direct result of a felony or certain misdemeanors. The definition of a victim includes: spouses and children of all victims; parents and guardians of minor victims; parents, guardians and siblings of an incapacitated victim; parents, guardians and siblings of a victim of homicide; and foster parents and/or caregivers under certain circumstances.
Who Can Help
If you have been the victim of a crime an important first step in your recovery process is to seek out immediate assistance. The AHVWAP is here to help you understand the trauma of your situation, navigate the complexities of the criminal judicial system and develop a plan of action for you. We will address all questions, concerns and emotions that you are experiencing, and will remain your system based advocated throughout the criminal justice process.
Outside of the court system, we can make referrals for emergency housing/domestic shelters, counseling options, financial assistance and civil attorneys that are available in our area to assist crime victims and their families. During your recovery process it is the desire of the AHVWAP to provide you with all knowledge and resources that enable you to make informed decisions during your recovery process.
Some Basic Victims' Rights are
It is the legislated responsibility and personal goal of the AHVWAP staff to provide you knowledge of and assistance with each victim's right:
*The Right to be Informed
To help ensure that crime victims are informed of their rights, they should be provided with written information about their victim's rights and services available to them.
Victims/Witnesses of certain crimes have the right to request that their personal information remain confidential. In these cases, a Request for Confidentiality by Crime Victim Form (DC-301) can be filed to seal his or her home address, telephone number, or place of employment.
*Protection - Victim Safety & Protective Orders
A protective order is a legal order issued by a magistrate or a judge to protect one person from physical abuse or threatening behavior by another. A protective order can be issued in a variety of cases, but it is always important to remember that while protective orders may offer you legal protection, they cannot necessarily protect you from physical violence. If you believe that you are in immediate danger, dial 911 for assistance.
Under certain circumstances, the defendant may be ordered to repay you, at least partially, for your monetary losses. The restitution procedure is included as part of the criminal prosecution and needs to be filed prior to the court hearing. If granted by the judge then it becomes court ordered.
If you are the victim of a crime in Virginia (or defined victim) you may be eligible to apply for victims' compensation for certain non-reimbursable losses such as loss of earnings, medical and counseling expenses, or funeral expenses. This process is by filing an application with the Virginia Victim Fund.
To assist in the investigation and prosecution of certain crimes, law enforcement authorities may temporarily hold your property as evidence. Victims have the right to know how long their property will be held for and, if needed, receive assistance with the return of their property.
Compensation for Witnesses
Victims/witnesses traveling from out of town or state may be entitled to payment for mileage, tolls, parking, meals, and lodging for each day’s attendance in court.
Crime victims can bring civil lawsuits against perpetrators or other responsible parties in order to hold them accountable for harm suffered. A civil action may provide compensation for damages not covered by restitution or victims’ compensation. You will need the help of a private attorney to pursue a civil action.
*Notice of Court Dates and Other Court-Related Assistance
Notice of Court Dates
Prior notice of all court dates, including bond hearings, will be provided as much as possible by the AHVWAP.
Notice of Defendant or Prisoner Status and VINE
The law indicates that in order to receive notices about the release or status change of a prisoner all appropriate officials must have victim's complete contact information registered properly. The options for victim notification are VINELINK, Virginia Department of Corrections and/or local jails.
VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday) is an automated system which automatically notifies registered victims and others about certain changes in the custody status of particular offenders. Victims and other concerned citizens can register at www.vinelink.com or by calling 1-800-467-4943.
If you are subpoenaed to court, or otherwise required in writing by the court to appear, and you give reasonable notice at your workplace, your employer may not fire you, discipline you, or require you to use vacation or sick leave in order to go to court. (See §18.2-465.1)
Whether or not you have been specifically required by the court to appear, the law requires every employer to allow an employee who is a victim of crime to leave work to be present at all criminal proceedings related to a crime against the employee. (See §40.1-28.7:2) Employers may limit the amount of leave provided, if it creates an undue hardship to the employer’s business.
Separate Waiting Areas
Most courthouses have separate waiting areas for victims and witnesses, in order to provide them privacy and protection from intimidation. If you are worried about having to wait in an area near the defendant, a separate and private waiting area will be provided to you.
Right to Remain in Courtroom
Victims have the right to remain in the courtroom during all court proceedings (bail or bond hearings, preliminary hearings, trials, sentencing, etc.) that the defendant attends, unless the judge determines this would impair the trial.
If you cannot speak English or you are hearing impaired, a court-approved interpreter may be appointed to assist you during the criminal justice process, at no cost to you.
Closed Preliminary Hearing
In cases of sexual assault or where the victim is a juvenile preliminary hearings may be closed to the public.
Closed Circuit Television Testimony
To reduce the trauma experienced by child victims and witnesses when they must testify, the law permits the use of closed-circuit television in certain criminal proceedings, including preliminary hearings, involving alleged offenses against children
Right to Plea Agreement Consultation
If you are a victim of a felony and you submit a request in writing, the commonwealth’s attorney must consult with you, either verbally or in writing, regarding the contents of a proposed plea agreement and your views concerning plea negotiations. It is important to understand that this is a consultation only, and that the commonwealth’s attorney and court has full authority to enter any such plea agreement.
Victim Impact Statement
After the defendant is found guilty in Circuit Court, the judge may consider a Victim Impact Statement(s) in determining the offender’s sentence. The Victim Impact Statement gives the victim the opportunity to tell the court, in writing, the impact of the crime(s). Victims may also be given the opportunity to testify, at the sentencing hearing, regarding the impact of the crime(s).
*Post-trial Assistance and Other Notices
Post-Trial Assistance Available
After the trial is over, victim's are eligible to be informed of certain information about the outcome of the case. The disposition includes the crimes for which the defendant was convicted, the sentence imposed, special instructions of the court, and any restitution that may have been ordered. Victims are also entitled to information regarding the defendant's right to appeal this conviction, and what to do in case of any violations of "no contact order" or failure to pay restitution.
Notice of Release on Bail
The law indicates that when a defendant is released on bail prior to trial or pending the outcome of an appeal victim's have the right to be notified of defendant’s release, as soon as it is “practicable” to do so.
Please talk with jail or sheriff’s office staff or victim/witness program staff about local bail release notification procedures which may include VINE registration.
- Not all rights and services are applicable in every case.
- To receive information and assistance, victims also have certain responsibilities, including (a) ensure that the Alleghany Highlands Victim/Witness Assistance Program, Commonwealth’s Attorney, law enforcement and other agencies have your accurate contact information (b) ensure that the court clerk responsible for sending you any restitution collected also has your accurate contact information (c) file requests to be notified of plea hearings or offer input. (d) provide their employer with materials summarizing the law which authorizes a victim to leave work to attend criminal proceedings.
(For a complete guide of Virginia's Crime Victims' Rights please see Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services publication page:
"A Summary of Virginia's Crime Victim and Witness Rights Act" brochure. This brochure can be found at the DCJS website at www.dcjs.virginia.gov/publications)