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Victims' Rights

Important COVID-19 Message 

Letter notifications from the Victim Notification System (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 at the bottom of this document.

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.rid.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 https://www.notify.usdoj.gov
1. If this is the first time you have accessed this site:
                     a. You must enter the VIN/ID and PIN contained in the letter you received from the United States Attorney’s Office
                     b. 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.
2. After logging into VNS
                     a. Step 1 - Create a new password. This password can be used in lieu of the VNS PIN when accessing VNS in the future
                                      1. VNS password must be at least 8 characters and may use letters, numbers, special characters or some combination.
                     b. Step 2 - Provide the answer to a security question
                     c. 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”
3. 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.
4. Entering a verified email address in VNS will eliminate letter notifications in the future and all VNS notifications will be provided by email.

Victim Witness Services

The Victim Witness Services Unit for the United States Attorney’s Office, District of Rhode Island provides services, support and education to victims and witnesses of federal crimes.  Staff is committed to ensuring that victims and witnesses are treated with fairness and respect and receive information and assistance for relevant services.  Some of these 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.

Victim Witness Services Staff

Tara Moniz, Victim Assistance Specialist
United States Attorney's Office
Providence , RI
(401) 709-5023
Tara.Moniz@usdoj.gov

Jan Schusswohl, Fact Witness Coordinator
United States Attorney's Office
Providence , RI
(401) 709-5034
Jan.Schusswohl@usdoj.gov
 

What We Provide

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 and assistance to submit victim impact information prior 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 about a particular defendant.  Victims of federal crime can receive this information by mail, through the automated phone system (1-866-DOJ-4YOU), email, fax or phone or on the web at www.notify.usdoj.gov.

Disabilities, Challenges and Accessibility

The victim witness staff makes every effort to accommodate any special needs that victims or witnesses may have to comfortably participate in the prosecution of a case.  This includes the use of interpreters, issues of physical accessibility and transportation.  It is important that the staff be made aware of any special needs as soon as possible to ensure the most comfortable accommodation possible.

Victim Rights

The rights of victims of federal crime are defined in the Crime Victims Rights Act.
In 2015, the Justice for All Act was updated. The updated Act added supplemental rights for crime victims and enhanced rights already in existence. Crime victims have the following rights under Federal law:

  • 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.  

If you have any questions, please contact Victims Assistance Specialist Tara R. Moniz at (401) 709-5023 or Tara.Moniz@usdoj.gov

Restitution and Victim Compensation

Under federal law, restitution is mandatory for many types of crimes. It is important that those victims who may be entitled to restitution keep a record of their losses, medical expenses, property damage and counseling expenses, with receipts when possible. The probation office will need this information if someone is convicted and ordered to pay restitution. Restitution ordered in criminal cases does not cover pain and suffering. Restitution collection is enforced by the Financial Litigation Unit.

Some, or all, of victim’s losses may consist of property or monies recovered by the investigating agency.  If applicable, such recoveries will be returned as quickly as is possible without jeopardizing the case. Often, such recoveries cannot be made available until all appeals are exhausted. Restitution issued under the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act may be enforced for 20 years following the period of incarceration or until the death of the defendant.

Financial Litigation Program

The Financial Litigation Program (FLP) for the District of Rhode Island is staffed by an Assistant U.S. Attorney and a Paralegal Specialist and support staff. Its mission is the collection of criminal and civil debts owing to the United States and victims of crime, including fines, penalties and restitution ordered by the Court in federal criminal cases. Restitution judgments frequently involve high-dollar restitution owed to the identified victims of a defendant's criminal activity.

Civil debts owed to the United States arise from a variety of relationships between government agencies and the public. Frequently, civil debts arise from contracts under which money is loaned by the federal agency and the borrower defaults in payment, such as student loans, Small Business Administration and Department of Agriculture. Civil debts may also arise from overpayments by federal agencies under the various programs they administer, such as Medicare and Social Security, to individuals or entities not entitled to the funds. Other civil debts result from the imposition of civil penalties imposed by federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency or the Social Security Administration. Such debts are referred to this office once all other possible means of collection have been exhausted

The FLP operates under the collection laws of the State in which the debtor resides (generally Rhode Island) and federal law, primarily the Federal Debt Collection Procedures Act (28 U.S.C. §§ 3001, et seq.), and numerous federal criminal fines statutes. FLP staff expend countless hours investigating debtor’s assets. The FLP is authorized to file priority liens on a debtor’s property in the same manner as a Federal tax lien. Other remedies include the garnishment of wages, seizure of property, and fraudulent conveyance lawsuits. In addition, the FLU conducts judgment debtor examinations and may offset funds owed to a debtor by the federal government, such as a debtor's federal income tax refund. Criminal debtors who are incarcerated may pay their debts by participating in the Bureau of Prisons' Inmate Financial Responsibility Program.

The FLU works closely with other federal agencies involved in the collection of federal debts.

As a practical matter, restitution collection is limited by the resources available to the defendant. If you become aware of any change in the economic circumstances of a defendant, please call our Financial Litigation Program. All such information and questions regarding restitution disbursements should be directed to the FLP at (401) 709-5037 or (401) 709-5062.

If you feel an employee of the Department of Justice has failed to provide you with your rights as a victim as stated in the Crime Victims' Rights Act of 2004 we encourage you to file a complaint with this Office or with the Office of the Victims' Rights Ombudsman, who will forward your complaint to the office that is the subject of your complaint. Complaint forms in English and Spanish are available below.

Additional Assistance

If you feel an employee of the Department of Justice has failed to provide you with your rights as a victim as stated in the Crime Victims' Rights Act of 2004 we encourage you to file a complaint with this Office or with the Office of the Victims' Rights Ombudsman, who will forward your complaint to the office that is the subject of your complaint. Complaint forms in English and Spanish are available below.

 

Updated February 24, 2021

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