Victim Witness Program
The Victim Witness Services Unit for the United States Attorneys Office, District of Minnesota, provides services, support, and education to victims and witnesses of federal crimes. Victim witness staff are committed to ensuring that victims and witnesses are treated with fairness and respect and receive information and assistance for relevant services. Some of those services include notification of significant court events, referral to appropriate support services, reasonable protection from the accused, help determining and requesting restitution, and the return of property and information concerning the conviction, sentencing, imprisonment, and release of the offender. Witnesses, upon request, will be notified of significant court events, convictions, and sentences. Witnesses are offered support through trial, preparation of travel arrangements, and special services, as appropriate. Also read our brochures -- Victim Services and Exercising Your Right to be Heard.
- Who We Are
- What We Do
- Victim Rights
- Federal Cases Involving Juvenile Suspects
- Restitution and Victim Compensation
- Questions and Answers About Restitution
- If a Witness in a Federal Matter is Threatened or Harassed
United States Attorney’s Office
600 U.S. Courthouse
300 South Fourth Street
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Main (612) 664-5600
Fax (612) 664-5787
What We Do
The staff of the Victim Witness Services Unit provides support, services, and information to victims and witnesses of crime.
Through this unit, victims of crime will receive --
- Information and support in obtaining necessary services
- Notice of upcoming court hearings and the outcome of those hearings
- Notice of bail hearings and the opportunity to present concerns to the court
- Assistance with travel and hotel arrangements, if necessary, when under subpoena
- The opportunity to confer with an attorney for the government as is appropriate
- Information concerning protection from the accused
- An invitation to and assistance in submitting victim impact informationprior to sentencing
- Assistance determining and requesting restitution
- Information concerning the Victim Compensation Fund
- Support throughout any court proceeding
- Information concerning the conviction, sentence, and release date of the defendant
Some of the services are accomplished by mail, phone, or e-mail. Some services must be done in person. Many notifications are received through the Victim Notification System (VNS). This automated phone system provides information concerning historical and scheduled court events, sentencing information, federal facility designation and potential release dates of offenders. Victims of federal crime can receive this information by mail, through the automated phone system (1-866-DOJ-4YOU), e-mail, fax, phone, or on the Web, at www.notify.usdoj.gov.
The victim witness staff make every effort to accommodate any special needs that victims or witnesses may have to participate in the prosecution of a case comfortably. This includes the use of interpreters, issues of physical assessibility, and transportation. It is important that the staff be made aware of any special needs as soon as possible to ensure the best accommodations possible.
The rights of victims of federal crime are defined in the Crime Victims Rights Act.
If you are a victim and believe you have not been accorded your rights under the Crime Victims Rights Act by this office, you may file an administrative complaint, as provided under 28 CFR §45.10. You may download an administrative complaint form (Forma de la queja en Español), or you may request it be mailed or faxed to you. The completed form should be mailed to:
Matthew S. Ebert, Assistant U.S. Attorney
United States Attorneys Office
600 U.S. Courthouse
300 South Fourth Street
Minneapolis, MN 55415
For more information, please visit the Office of the Victims' Rights Ombudsman.
Federal Cases Involving Juvenile Suspects
Federal law curtails the type of information the federal government may disclose in juvenile proceedings. Therefore, you may not be able to receive updates about the progress of these matters in the same manner that you would if an adult was being prosecuted. However, at the request of the victim, we can provide information of the final disposition (e.g., the adjudication and sentence) after the conclusion of any proceeding against a juvenile. To be notified of any such final disposition, this office must receive a written request.
Although this office is somewhat limited when disclosing information concerning a juvenile proceeding, the victim is NOT limited in submitting information to us. The victim has the right to submit any information about how this crime affected him/her and his/her family and may provide views about appropriate disposition of the matter. If you are a victim of a juvenile federal offense and you wish to provide information or thoughts, please send them to the Victim Witness Services Unit. Your comments will be forwarded to the appropriate party.
Restitution and Victim Compensation
Under federal law, restitution is mandatory for many types of crimes. It is important for those victims who may be entitled to restitution to keep a record of their losses, medical expenses, property damage, and counseling expenses, with receipts when possible. This information will be needed by the probation department if someone is convicted and ordered to pay restitution.
Restitution collection is enforced by the Financial Litigation Unit at the U.S. Attorney's Office. If you have questions about restitution payments and disbursements, please call the Financial Litigation Unit, at (612) 664-5746. You will need the name of the defendant.
Restitution ordered in criminal cases does not cover pain and suffering. As a practical matter, restitution collection is limited by the resources of the defendant. If you become aware of any change in the economic circumstances of the defendant, please call the Financial Litigation Unit. The liability to pay restitution issued under the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act lasts 20 years plus any period of incarceration or until the death of the defendant.
Some or all of your loss may consist of property or monies that is recovered by the investigating agency. This will be returned to you as quickly as is possible without jeopardizing the case. Often, one must wait until appeals are exhausted before evidence is returned.
Questions and Answers About Restitution
Who gets restitution? Does a judge have to order restitution?
Restitution may be ordered by the court at the time of sentencing. Restitution must be ordered by the court in certain types of crimes.
- A crime of violence
- A crime against property, under United States Title 18, including fraud and deceit
- A crime of sexual abuse
- A crime of sexual exploitation or other abuses against children
- A crime of domestic violence
- A crime of telemarketing fraud
If restitution is ordered, the defendant will send payments to the Clerk of Courts, who will keep track of the balance owed and disburse money. Usually individual victims of crimes are paid before insurance companies, federal agencies, and state governments. If your insurance company covered any or all of your loss, please convey the name of the insurance company, address, contact person, and claim number to our office.
How can I recover my losses if I am not a victim of a crime described above?
Sometimes restitution can be agreed to in a plea agreement between the defendant and the government. A judge can also order restitution when he or she finds that it is appropriate.
What losses does restitution cover?
Restitution covers actual loss of property, medical expenses, counseling, funeral and burial costs, and sometimes lost wages. Restitution will not be ordered for psychological ‘pain and suffering.'
Do I have to wait until the defendant gets out of jail to recover my losses?
The Inmate Financial Responsibility Program (IFRP) allows prisoners to work in the prison industry and earn very low wages. The IFRP requires that 50 percent of those wages are applied to restitution and fines. This is a voluntary program. An inmate cannot be forced to participate. The money is forwarded to the Clerk of Court, who will then make disbursement to victims.
Does the United States Attorneys Office act as my attorney to collect the money owed to me?
No. The United States Attorneys Office will enforce the restitution imposed by the judgment in a criminal case as attorneys for the United States of America. While this enforcement benefits you as a victim of a crime, neither the United States Attorneys Office nor the Department of Justice, nor any employee thereof, is your attorney. The United States Attorneys Office will not seek your consent to any action it may undertake to pursue enforcement of the restitution order.
What happens when the defendant is released from probation and still owes me money? Who will collect it?
The Financial Litigation Unit of the United States Attorneys Office will continue to attempt to collect the restitution for a period of 20 years from the time of sentence plus any incarceration time. It is your responsibility to make sure that office and the Clerk of Court have updated contact information for you. A victim named in a restitution order may obtain an Abstract of Judgment from the Clerk of the United States District Court and record or register the Abstract in accordance with state law to obtain a lien against the property of the defendant in the same manner and to the same extent and under the same conditions as a judgment of a court of general jurisdiction of the state in which the loss was incurred. The United States Attorneys Office cannot consult with you regarding your individual rights to pursue civil litigation against a defendant. You may wish to consult with a private attorney to obtain information about your ability to proceed against a defendant to recover losses or damages you sustained as a result of this crime.
What if I cannot wait that long to pay my bills? Why should I have to pay for his crime anyway?
If you are the victim or family member of a victim of a violent crime and suffered physical or mental harm, you may be eligible for funds through the Victim Compensation Fund. This fund provides reimbursement for medical, counseling, dental, funeral expenses, lost wages, and lost support in eligible cases. In Minnesota, this fund is administered through the Office of Justice Programs . Each state, including Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Marianna Islands, have victim compensation programs. Each program is a little bit different and compensates differently. If you were a victim or a family member of a victim of a violent crime that occurred in another state, you can learn more about that program through the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards. If you were a victim of a violent crime in another country, you can learn more about international programs at the Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime Web site.
If a Witness in a Federal Matter is Threatened or Harassed
If anyone threatens you or you feel that you are being harassed because of your cooperation in a case, there are remedies available. Your safety is paramount. If something happens that places you in fear, immediately call your local law enforcement. Then, contact the investigating agent or the Victim Witness staff. They are available to discuss additional protective measures with you, such as temporary restraining orders and re-location. In addition, there are penalties for harassment and other threats. Therefore, for your safety, it is important that you report incidences of harassment and/or threats as soon as possible.