Federal crime victims have been granted a number of rights during their participation in the criminal justice system. Some of these rights may only be available if a case is accepted for prosecution. To learn more about your rights, please contact your case agent or investigative agency Victim/Witness Coordinator.
If you ask to be kept informed about the status of the case, you have the right to receive periodic updates, or you may contact the case agent or agency's Coordinator. These names are listed at the end of this brochure.
It Is Very Important to Report Any Address or Telephone Changes to the Case Agent or Coordinator During an Investigation and Prosecution.
Even though the months ahead may be difficult for you and your family, your assistance is important to ensure that justice is fully achieved. In regards to the criminal justice process, all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a criminal court.
Throughout the investigation process, the case agent/Coordinator is your principle contact. If you remember anything additional, or learn of additional information about the crime, be sure to contact the case agent as soon as possible.
A federal investigation may be complex and lengthy. It may involve several organizations, federal and/or local. Remember, your interests are important, and we are here to help answer any questions or concerns you may have.
Your rights related to the investigation include:
- information on the status of the investigation, to the extent that it is appropriate to inform a victim and to the extent that it will not interfere with the investigation;
- notification of the arrest of an accused suspect;
- notification if the case is declined for prosecution;
- information on resources which support crime victims, compensation and possible restitution;
- information on the procedure to request the return of property held as evidence upon the completion of a criminal case.
Above all, it is important when discussing the case with persons from any criminal justice agency or testifying in court, to tell the truth.
If A Case Is Accepted For Prosecution
If a case is accepted for prosecution federally, you should be contacted by an Assistant U.S. Attorney assigned to handle the case. Each U. S. Attorney's office has a Victim/Witness Coordinator to help answer questions about the status of a case, provide information on available resources and address your concerns.
Victims have the right to be notified of the continuing status of a case once charges are filed. The Coordinator will serve as your liaison throughout your involvement in the criminal justice process, including if a defendant is convicted and after a sentence is imposed. This may include access to information about the restitution process and release from prison.
Victims of violent crimes also have the right to address the Court at sentencing to provide information about the impact of a crime.
If You Are Threatened or Harassed
Your safety is very important to us. It may be helpful to know that threats or retaliation against a victim or potential witness are very rare. However if anyone threatens you or you feel that you are being harassed because of your cooperation with an investigation, contact the local police and/or the case agent immediately.
Additional penalties have been established for harassment and other threats. The case agent is available to discuss additional protective measures if necessary.
Compensation for Injuries
There is a free program to assist victims of violent crimes with certain costs of a crime. The program covers victims where there is an injury or where physical injury is threatened as a result of a crime (laws varies by state). Victims who have certain costs not covered by insurance or other reimbursement sources to pay for medical bills, counseling and certain other out of pocket expenses, may apply for a state sponsored crime victim compensation program which may be able to assist in paying such expenses.
In many states, including California, the cost of lost wages, medical bills including co-payment costs not covered by insurance, loss of support wage claims on behalf of family members and certain funeral expenses may be covered. Family members may also be eligible for services. There are stringent time deadlines for applications, as well as a maximum amount that can be paid under each state program. Contact the Coordinator listed for more information.
In most cases in convictions involving fraud or crimes of violence, the Court must order restitution to pay for certain victim losses.
Keep a record of all expenses caused by the crime. If restitution is ordered, it is important to keep the U. S. Clerk of Court or Coordinator at the U. S. Attorney's Office informed of any address changes, so that any restitution collected can be forwarded to you. Restitution orders are enforceable for twenty years after a judgment is filed (plus the time incarcerated).
Why do I Feel This Way?
How people react to a crime varies from person to person and may be affected by individual factors such as how a victim usually handles stressful situations and what kind of social support is available. Your reactions may be immediate or delayed. You may experience symptoms which are physical, emotional or affect your ability to think clearly. For some people, the reactions decrease within a few days, for others, the reactions last much longer.
It Is Important to Realize That These Are Normal Reactions to a Crime.
Some victims find it helpful to seek the services of a counseling professional, clergy member, or advocacy organization. Contact the Coordinator for help in locating services, if needed.
Help Is Available
Remember, you are not alone. The following is a way to document the people within the criminal justice agencies who are assisting in the criminal case against the defendant.
Investigative Agency Victim/Witness Coordinator Name and Phone Number:
800-422-4453 (Child Abuse Hotline)
Community Eldercare Locator
Consumer Credit Counseling Service
National Center for Victims of Crime
National Domestic Violence
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network Hotline, crisis counseling, referrals (RAINN)
Victims of Crime Resource Center
Information on California victim assistance, including elder and child abuse programs, sexual assault & family violence services.
Los Angeles Domestic Violence Hotline
For county referrals to services and restraining order information.
U.S. Attorney's Victim/Witness Assistance
California County Victim Assistance Centers
For information, referrals, victim compensation assistance in your county:
Los Angeles 213-974-7499
San Bernardino 909-989-0056
Santa Barbara 805-568-2408
San Luis Obisbo 805-781-5821