Victim Witness Assistance
The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that victims of federal crime are treated with dignity, fairness and respect throughout their involvement in the federal criminal justice system, and that victims receive the rights and services to which they are entitled under federal law. Our Victim-Witness Assistance Program is responsible for providing victim notification and coordinating a variety of assistance services for victims and witnesses during the prosecution of criminal and civil cases.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s responsibilities to both victims and witnesses typically begins once federal charges have been filed and the charges have been made public. To contact the Victim-Witness Unit Staff please contact:
- San Francisco area Victim-Witness Specialist, 415-436-6993
- Oakland area Victim-Witness Specialist, 415-436-6597
- San Jose area Victim-Witness Specialist, 408-535-5176
- Fact witness inquiries, 415-436-7144
- Victim-Witness Unit Coordinator, 415-436-6834
Department of Justice Victim Notification System
The Victim Notification System (VNS) provides victims of federal crime with information related to their case. Typically, the victim will receive an initial notification indicating a Victim Identification Number (VIN) and a Personal Identification Number (PIN) that will allow the victim to access VNS on the Internet and via telephone. For more detailed information about this system, please access:
COVID-19 Update (March 2020)
Letter notifications from the VNS may be delayed as a result of the availability of staff at government agencies during the COVID-19 outbreak. The other methods of notification provided by VNS (email, the VNS Internet site, toll-free telephone number) will continue in operation and will provide timely information. If you have not already done so, we suggest you access the VNS web site (https://www.notify.usdoj.gov) and enter a verified email address to receive email notifications from VNS. Registrants of VNS with a verified email address will receive the same notification information via email as provided by the VNS letters. Instructions for entering a verified email address in VNS can be found below.
If you plan to attend a court hearing, prior to the scheduled date of the event, be sure to contact the victim assistance staff at the United States Attorney’s Office or check the web site of the U.S. District Court where the hearing is being held (https://www.uscourts.gov) for any special guidelines on courthouse and/or courtroom access during the Coronavirus outbreak. Please be aware that access may be limited based on government guidelines or restrictions in the local area.
You may contact the VNS Help Desk at 866-625-1631 for assistance with the registration process or for other help with the internet system. You will need to provide your VIN and PIN when contacting the Help Desk.
Instructions for Entering a Verified Email Address in VNS
- If this is the first time you have accessed this site:
- You must enter the VIN/ID and PIN contained in the letter you received from the United States Attorney’s Office.
- You will also be asked to enter either your last name, or if a business, the business name. The name must be the same as contained in the notification letter.
- After logging into VNS
- Step 1 - Create a new password. This password can be used in lieu of the VNS PIN when accessing VNS in the future. (VNS password must be at least 8 characters and may use letters, numbers, special characters or some combination.)
- Step 2 - Provide the answer to a security question.
- Step 3 - Enter and confirm your email address. A confirmation notice will be sent to the email you entered and your email will be “verified”.
- After completing the above steps, you can use your email address, and the password you created in Step 1, to access VNS in lieu of the VIN and PIN.
- Entering a verified email address in VNS will eliminate letter notifications in the future and all VNS notifications will be provided by email.
Attack on the U.S. Capitol
Recognizing the devastating mental health impact that January 6th, 2021 had on all Americans, the National Mass Violence and Victimization Resource Center (NMVVRC) has developed a self-care tip sheet that can be shared with colleagues, family and friends effected by this unfortunate event. This sheet may be accessed at the following link.
The website listed below provides different options for individuals to report COVID-19 scams, including the National Center for Disaster Fraud toll-free hotline and email, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) tip line and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3):
The National Elder Fraud Hotline provides services to seniors who may be victims of financial fraud. The Hotline is staffed by experienced case managers who can provide personalized support to callers. Case managers will assist callers with reporting the suspected fraud to relevant agencies and by providing resources and referrals to other appropriate services as needed. When applicable, case managers will complete a complaint form with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) for Internet-facilitated crimes and submit a consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission on behalf of the caller.
Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery. Victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud and coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Victims can be children, teenagers, women and men. For more information and resources to help victims, visit the National Human Trafficking Hotline website:
Victim and Witness Safety
If anyone threatens you or you feel that you are being harassed because of your cooperation or involvement with a federal case, there are remedies available. Your safety is paramount. If something happens that places you in fear, immediately call your local law enforcement or 911. Then contact the investigating agent or the Victim-Witness Assistance staff. They are available to discuss additional protective measures. 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.
Rights of Crime Victims
As a crime victim, you have the following rights under 18 United States Code § 3771:
- The right to be reasonably protected from the accused.
- The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceeding, or any parole proceeding, involving the crime or of any release or escape of the accused.
- The right not to be excluded from any such public court proceeding, unless the court, after receiving clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony by the victim would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at that proceeding.
- The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, [or] sentencing, or any parole proceeding.
- The reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case.
- The right to full and timely restitution as provided in law.
- The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay.
- The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim's dignity and privacy.
- The right to be informed in a timely manner of any plea bargain or deferred prosecution agreement.
- The right to be informed of the rights under this section and the services described in section 503(c) of the Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 10607(c)) and provided contact information for the Office of the Victims’ Rights Ombudsman of the Department of Justice.
We will make our best efforts to ensure that you are accorded the rights described. You can seek the advice of a private attorney with respect to these rights.
If you believe that the U.S. Attorney's Office has not provided you with one or more of these rights, there is an administrative complaint procedure, as provided under 28 CFR, § 45.10. For further information, please contact the Victim-Witness Unit of the U.S. Attorney's Office or the Office of Victims' Rights Ombudsman website: https://www.justice.gov/usao/office-victims-rights-ombuds.
If you believe that the U.S. Attorney's Office has failed to provide you with one or more of these rights, there is an administrative complaint procedure, as provided under 28 CFR, § 45.10. Please contact the Victim/Witness Unit, of the U.S. Attorney's Office, for further information or the Office of Victims' Rights Ombudsman website: https://www.justice.gov/usao/office-victims-rights-ombuds.
The following links provide additional information for victims and witnesses:
The following links provide additional resources for victims: