Victim Witness Assistance
The United States Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico is committed to ensuring that federal crime victims are afforded all rights to which they are entitled by law. To accomplish this goal, each office in the district has a designated individual to provide victim and witness support. Our role is to prosecute cases fairly and justly. Services provided to crime victims and witnesses by the U.S. Attorney's Office include: notice of case events; information concerning their rights; information about case proceedings and the criminal justice system in general; referrals to medical and/or social service providers; assistance with travel arrangements; and logistical information concerning transportation, parking, child care, etc.
The Office is committed to protecting the rights of crime victims. If you are a victim of a crime being prosecuted by our Office, our Victim and Witness Unit can make sure that you are notified of important stages of the case and can help refer you to other agencies that provide important services, including compensation and counseling. Learn about your rights as a victim.
The Crime Victims' Rights Act gives victims of offenses charged in Federal court the following rights:
- 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, 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 you are provided the rights described. You may seek the advice of an attorney with respect to these rights.
If you believe that an employee of the United States Attorney's Office failed to provide you with one or more of these rights, you may file an administrative complaint, as provided under 28 CFR § 45.10. Please contact the United States Attorney's Office to obtain information about these procedures.
Office of the Crime Victims' Rights Ombudsman
A victim of a federal crime may file a complaint against any employee of the Department of Justice who violated or failed to provide the rights established under the Crime Victims Rights Act of 2004, 18 U.S.C. § 3771. The Department of Justice has established the Office of the Victims’ Rights Ombudsman to receive and investigate complaints filed by crime victims against its employees, and has implemented Procedures to Promote Compliance with Crime Victims’ Rights Obligations, 28 C.F.R. § 45.10.
The rights provided by the Crime Victims’ Rights Act are guaranteed from the time that criminal proceedings are initiated (by complaint, information, or indictment) and cease to be available if all charges are dismissed either voluntarily or on the merits (or if the Government declines to bring formal charges after the filing of a complaint).
The complaint process is not designed for the correction of specific victims’ rights violations, but is instead used to request corrective or disciplinary action against Department of Justice employees who may have failed to provide rights to crime victims. The Department of Justice will investigate the allegations in the complaint to determine whether the employee utilized his or her "best efforts" to provide crime victims' rights.
The Office of the Victims’ Rights Ombudsman does not administer crime victim funds or provide services. If you are seeking information about available resources and services, please contact the Office for Victims of Crime.
Contact the Crime Victims' Rights Ombudsman at:
Executive Office for United States Attorneys
Department of Justice
RFK Main Justice Building
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. Room 2261
Washington, DC 20530-0001
If you are a witness for the United States government and have questions regarding the status of the case in which you are involved, you may contact the case agent or the Assistant United States Attorney assigned to the case.
The federal justice system cannot function without the participation of witnesses. You may be subpoenaed at some point for a federal criminal proceeding, whether it be grand jury, trial or another type of hearing. Witnesses who receive a subpoena and appear for a court proceeding are entitled to certain reimbursements. Generally, each witness receives a $40 fee for each day’s attendance, parking and mileage reimbursement, travel provided by the least expensive method and a specific meal and lodging allowance if you are required to stay overnight. Once you receive a subpoena, you will talk with a Victim-Witness Coordinator about arrangements. If specific contact information does not appear on your subpoena, contact the Victim-Witness Coordinator for assistance.
The United States Attorney's Office understands that being a victim and/or witness in a federal case may cause concerns for the safety of you and your family. If an emergency situation arises, call 911 or your local emergency number to reach law enforcement immediately.
It is a Federal offense to threaten, intimidate, harass or mislead a witness in a criminal proceeding. If you feel you have been threatened or harassed due to your involvement as a victim or witness in a federal case, contact the case agent or the Assistant United States Attorney assigned to the case.
To learn more about the federal court system and the criminal justice process, visit the Justice 101 website.
The Criminal Justice Process
As the case moves through the Federal court system, there are several events that typically occur.
- Detention Hearing (Possible) - The Government is seeking to detain of the defendant and may do so based on the statement of the prosecutor or by presenting witnesses and exhibits.
- Preliminary Hearing - A Judge determines if there is sufficient probable cause to charge the defendant. This only occurs if the defendant has not been charged by the grand jury.
- Grand Jury Hearing - A Grand Jury hears evidence in a non-public proceeding and may issue a formal charge called an Indictment. An Arrest Warrant may be issued at this time.
- Arraignment - A defendant appears in court and hears the charge(s) against him/her. At this time, the defendant typically enters a plea of not guilty.
- Discovery, Plea Negotiations, & Motions - This may include hearings & rulings on motions concerning the admissibility of evidence, trial issues, or a possible guilty plea from the defendant.
- Trial - The Government presents its case with witnesses, followed by the defendant's case. The trial generally results in a verdict by a jury.
- Pre-Sentence Investigation & Report Prepared - After a finding of guilt, a pre-sentence report is prepared for the judge by U.S. Probation, at which time you have the right to submit written victim impact statements.
Restitution and Compensation
The Victim Compensation Program for Puerto Rico helps cover expenses for victims of violent crime who have suffered physical or psychological injury. The Crime Victim Compensation Program may be able to reimburse you for crime related expenses such as medical care, mental health expenses, and lost wages clue to crime related injuries. To obtain further information and an application, contact the Victim-Witness Coordinator.
Under federal law, restitution is mandatory for many types of crimes. While there is no guarantee that payment will be made, 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 in our office. 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. For detailed information concerning the restitution process, please review The Restitution Process for Victims of Federal Crimes.
The Emotional Impact of Crime
Many victims of and witnesses to crime are emotionally affected by their experience and although everyone reacts differently, many people report common reactions such as:
- Feelings of panic and/or anxiety
- Nightmares and sleep pattern changes
- Feelings of self-doubt, shame or guilt
- Reliving what happened
- Depression, difficulty concentrating
- Increased concern for personal safety and that of their family.
Many people continue to have these responses for some time after the crime. The Victim/Witness Unit can assist you in finding appropriate support services.
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Torre Chardón, Suite 1201
350 Carlos Chardón Street
San Juan, PR 00918
Tel.: (787) 766-5656, Toll Free: 1-877-USA-5656
Fax: (787) 766-5326
- U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime
- National Center for Victims of Crime
- Recursos para Víctimas en Español
- U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women
- National Consumers League Fraud Center
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
- National Center for Elder Abuse
- Take Charge: Fight Back Against Identify Theft
- IdentityTheft.gov or RobodeIdentidad.gov (español)
- See video on How to Report and Recover from Identity Theft
- Get a personal recovery plan that walks them through each step.
- Update their personal plan and track their progress by creating an account.
- Print pre-filled letters & forms to send to credit bureaus, businesses, debt collectors, and law enforcement.
BastaYaPR is a non-profit corporation in Puerto Rico, created by Marie Rodríguez and Luis Romero after their son, Julian Romero-Rodríguez was murdered on the night of his 20th birthday. On April 18, 2011, Julian was walking along with his girlfriend on a beach in San Juan when they became victims of an armed robbery by a 15 years old male. During the robbery, Julian’s girlfriend was injured. Julian stepped in to defend his girlfriend and was stabbed to death. The robber was brought to justice, prosecuted as an adult and is currently serving a 30-year prison sentence.
BastaYaPR is a movement against violence and aggression focused on permanent solutions. Their mission is to transform the behavior and habits of civil society and the public sector to promote the prevention and investigation of crimes; their vision is to eradicate violence and aggression to preserve life.
BastaYaPR uses social networking and their website as their principal work instrument. They develop and support projects as a community effort.