You are here

Victim Witness Assistance

The United States Attorney's Office is committed to providing support and information to victims and witnesses involved in civil and criminal litigation proceedings in which the U.S. Department of Justice is a party. A primary goal is to ensure that victims of crime are treated fairly, with dignity, and respect for their privacy.

Cases prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney are referred to the office by investigative agencies. Once federal charges are filed and the charges are made public, the U.S. Attorney's Office begins to carry out its responsibilities to victims and witnesses.

crime victim bill of rights

Federal crime victims have the following rights, as specified in 42 U.S.C. Section 10606:

  • The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim's dignity and privacy.
  • The right to be reasonably protected from the accused offender.
  • The right to be notified of court proceedings.
  • The right to be present at all public court proceedings related to the offense, unless the court determines that testimony by the victim would be materially affected if the victim heard other testimony at trial.
  • The right to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case.
  • The right to restitution.
  • The right to information about the conviction, sentencing, imprisonment, and release of the offender.

It is the goal of the Office's Victim Witness Assistance staff to ensure victims and witnesses are accorded those rights.

Click HERE to view the Victim Witness Brochure.

Definition of a victim

The Attorney General's Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance define a victim as a person that has suffered direct physical, emotional, or pecuniary harm as a result of the commission of a federal crime. If the victim is a non-governmental institution, such as a bank or corporation, this definition includes a representative of that institution. Government agencies are not considered victims for the purpose of victim services but federal government employees who are harmed in the performance of their duties are considered victims. If the victim is deceased, under 18 years of age, incompetent or incapacitated, this definition includes one of the following persons (in order of preference):

  • A spouse;
  • A legal guardian;
  • A parent;
  • A child:
  • A sibling;
  • Another family member; or
  • Another person designated by the court

A person who is culpable for the crime being investigated or prosecuted is not considered a victim for purposes of victim rights and services.

Definition of a witness

The Attorney General's Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance define a witness as a person who has information or evidence concerning a crime, and provides information regarding his or her knowledge to a law enforcement agency. Where the witness is a minor, the term witness includes an appropriate family member or legal guardian. The term witness does not include a person who is solely a defense witness.

services and assistance

Our office staff works together to ensure that victims are informed of the status of cases and to help victims find services to assist to help them recover from the effects of being victimized.

The following services and assistance will be provided:

  • Accompaniment
  • Advocacy
  • Case Status Updates and Notification (primarily through the Victim Notification System)
  • Courtroom Orientation
  • Creditor/Employer/School Intercession
  • Information and assistance with travel, lodging, parking, and reimbursement for mandatory court appearances
  • Referrals to other appropriate agencies
  • Separate waiting area away from the defendant
  • Support
  • Victim Rights Notification
  • Victim Notification System
  • Victim/Witness Intimidation Response
how to contact us

The Victim Witness Unit is comprised of an experienced Victim Witness Coordinator and two Victim Witness Assistants. Our staff can be contacted at the following telephone numbers or email addresses:

the following links provide further information for crime victims and witnesses
2015 National Crime Victims'Service Awards Recipients

On April 21, 2015, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) hosted the 2015 National Crime Victims’ Service Awards Ceremony to recognize individuals and organizations that demonstrate outstanding service in supporting victims and victim services. The award recipients are extraordinary individuals, organizations, teams, and programs that provide services to victims of crime.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason, and OVC Director Joye E. Frost honored these recipients:

  • Karen Irene Kalergis - National Crime Victim Service Award
  • Lisa Heth - National Crime Victim Service Award
  • The Honorable Paul M. Herbert - Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services
  • Mary Kay Inc. - Allied Professional Award
  • Norman A. Gahn - Allied Professional Award
  • LaWanda Hawkins - Volunteer for Victims Award
  • Rebecca Campbell, Ph.D. - Vision 21 Crime Victims Research Award
  • Laurel Wemhoff - Crime Victims’ Rights Award
  • Matthew Richard Smith and Dr. Marcus Andrew Smith - Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award
  • Suzanne Kay Breedlove - Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office-Middle District of Pennsylvania; U.S. Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Money Laundering Section; and U.S. Postal Inspection Service-Harrisburg, Pennsylvania - Crime Victims Financial Restoration Award
  • Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson - Special Courage Award

“The Department of Justice is proud to recognize the tremendous contributions of dedicated colleagues, passionate advocates and extraordinary partners in the field of victim services,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “From safeguarding survivors of sexual violence to assisting victims of mass marketing fraud, the recipients of today’s awards have been instrumental in our nationwide effort to protect the most vulnerable among us, to prevent and combat crime, and to help victims find hope and seek justice.”

To learn more about the award recipients or to view photos from the 2015 Awards Ceremony, visit the OVC Gallery.

OVC was also pleased to share DVDs of the Through Our Eyes: Children, Violence, and Trauma video series at the event. This resource features a public awareness video, a call to action video, and six topic-specific videos.

Though NCVRW 2015 is at an end, we encourage you to continue to promote victims’ rights and honor crime victims and those who advocate on their behalf throughout the year.

To receive information about NCVRW 2016, sign up for the NCVRW mailing list.


Updated May 1, 2015