Victim Witness Assistance
Community-based victim advocacy centers remain open and ready to serve victims throughout Vermont. Advocacy organizations are operating remotely and continue to provide services. This includes Victims of Domestic Violence.
The United States Attorney's Office is committed to protecting the rights of federal crime victims and witnesses.
Below is valuable information regarding crime victim rights.
Definition of a Crime Victim
The Attorney General's Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance define a victim as a person that has suffered direct physical, emotional, or pecuniary harm as a result of the commission of a federal crime. If the victim is a non governmental institution, such as a bank or corporation, this definition includes a representative of that institution. Government agencies are not considered victims for the purpose of victim services but federal government employees who are harmed in the performance of their duties are considered victims. If the victim is deceased, under 18 years of age, incompetent or incapacitated, this definition includes one of the following persons (in order of preference): a spouse, a legal guardian, a parent, a child, a sibling, another family member; or another person designated by the court.
Definition of a Witness
The Attorney General's Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance define a witness as a person who has information or evidence concerning a crime, and provides information regarding his or her knowledge to a law enforcement agency. Where the witness is a minor, the term witness includes an appropriate family member or legal guardian. The term witness does not include a person who is solely a defense witness.
The U.S. Attorney's Office will make its best efforts to ensure your rights are protected. 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.
If you are a victim or a witness in a case being investigated or prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Vermont and you need assistance, contact the Victim-Witness Specialist at 802-951-6725 or toll free 1-866-824-0398.
A Crime Victim's Rights Under Federal Law
Under Federal law (18 U.S.C. § 3771), crime victims have the following rights:
- The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim's dignity and privacy;
- The right to be reasonably protected from the accused offender;
- The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceedings involving the crime or of any release or escape of the accused;
- The right not to be excluded from any such public court proceedings, unless the court, after receiving clear and convincing evidence, determines that the testimony by the victim would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at the proceeding;
- The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding:
- The right to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case;
- The right to full and timely restitution as provided in the law;
- The right to proceedings free from delay;
- The right to information about the conviction, sentencing, imprisonment, and release of the offender.
U.S. Attorney's Victim and Witness Services
The U.S. Attorney's Office Victim and Witness Assistance Program can assist eligible federal crime victims and witnesses with the following:
- Provide information about the status of the case;
- Provide referrals for victims to crisis intervention, counseling and other assistance services;
- Provide information on victim compensation to victims of violent crime;
- Provide notification, upon request, to the employer of the victim/witness if cooperation in the prosecution of the crime causes absence from work;
- Provide information about submitting written victim impact statements and seeking restitution, and provide information about making verbal victim impact statements at the sentencing;
- Accompany victims to court for trial and sentencing;
- Register victims with the Federal Bureau of Prisons Victim/Witness Notification Program; and,
- Provide logistical information and assistance to witnesses with respect to directions, transportation, parking, witness fees and travel reimbursement; assistance with airline and lodging arrangements is provided for out-of-state witnesses;
- Upon the request of a victim or witness, assistance will be provided in notifying his or her employer if cooperation in the prosecution of the crime causes an absence from work.
In addition to these services, there are a variety of community based programs are available to respond to the immediate needs of crime victims and to assist victims with the emotional impacts of crime. These programs offer a range of services to crime victims including: crisis intervention and 24-hour crisis help lines; individual and group counseling; grief support; emergency shelter and transitional assistance; and legal advocacy. The services are offered free of charge or on a sliding scale fee basis. The types of programs available include domestic violence shelters and assistance programs, homicide bereavement programs, child witness to violence programs, rape crisis centers, and programs for non-English speaking victims. Federal crime victims are eligible for assistance through these programs. The U.S. Attorney's Office Victim-Witness Specialist can assist crime victims locate victim service providers in your community.
Witness Fees and Travel Reimbursement
Witnesses receive written travel and reimbursement instructions from the U.S. Attorney's Office at the time a subpoena is issued or a witness is instructed by the Assistant U.S. Attorney to appear. If you are a witness and you did not receive the written travel instructions, call the U.S. Attorney's Office to request this information prior to making any travel arrangements. When contacting the U.S. Attorney's Office, ask to speak to the travel coordinator for the Assistant U.S. Attorney who requested your testimony. The name and contact information of the Assistant U.S. Attorney is located on the bottom right side of the subpoena.
A fact witness is a person whose testimony consists of the recitation of facts or events. Fact witnesses are entitled to a witness fee of $40.00 a day. Federal employees are not entitled to the $40.00 witness fee. Witnesses are not reimbursed for lost wages or lost business profits due to their absence from work. Reimbursement for travel expenses is limited to the government rates established by the U.S. Government Services Administration. Witnesses should request a Fact Witness Reimbursement Form before leaving the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Witnesses are required to travel by public transportation or by the most economical means of travel. Receipts are required for all parking expenses, regardless of the amount. Travel by privately owned vehicles is reimbursed at the government rate for mileage. Gasoline expenses are not reimbursed in addition to mileage. Travel by taxicab is not permitted. Only out of state witnesses who travel to and from the airport and between the hotel and the federal court house may travel by taxicab.
A flat fee for meals and incidental expenses (M&IE) is provided to out of state witnesses required to remain overnight for consecutive days of testimony. One-half of the M&IE fee is provided for the incoming and outgoing travel days, and the full M&IE amount is provided for each day in between. In state witnesses do not receive an allowance for meals or incidental expenses.
Witnesses are not reimbursed on the day they appear in court. A reimbursement check will be mailed to the witness. Allow 5 weeks for delivery of the check from the date the necessary paperwork is received in the U.S. Attorney's Office.
If Victims or Witnesses Are Threatened or Harassed
If you are a victim or witness in a federal case and you are threatened or harassed because of your cooperation in the case, there are remedies available. If a threat is made to you, it should be reported to the appropriate law enforcement officials. If the situation is immediate, call 911 for assistance. You should report threats or harassment to the federal investigating agent (or agency) with whom you have had prior contact. The federal investigative agent will evaluate the situation and discuss available protective measures with you. There are penalties for harassment and other threats. It is important to report incidences of harassment or threats as soon as possible.
The Victim Compensation Program provides financial assistance to eligible victims of violent crime and their families. Victims of financial fraud crimes are not eligible for the Victim Compensation Program. Through this program reimbursement may be made for certain expenses to the extent that private insurance, public assistance or other funds do not cover the cost. The crime must have been reported to the police within five days unless there is good cause for delay. Applications must be filed within three years of the date of the crime.
Eligible victims of violent crime may be reimbursed for:
- Medical expenses, including hospital, ambulance, rehabilitation services, equipment, supplies and medications;
- Dental expenses;
- Mental health counseling for victims, for family members of homicide victims, and for children who witness violence against a family member;
- Funeral and burial expenses up to $4,000;
- Lost wages (for victims only);
- Loss of income for dependents of homicide victims; and,
- Homemaker expenses.
Property losses, compensation for pain and suffering and all other losses are not covered by the Victim Compensation Program. To obtain further information about a federal crime victim's eligibility, call the U.S. Attorney's Office Victim-Witness Specialist at 802-951-6725.
A crime victim may also be eligible for compensation under Vermont state law. The Victim Compensation Program in Vermont is administered by the State of Vermont Center for Crime Victims Services. For an application or additional information on the Vermont Victim Compensation Program contact 1-800-750-1213 or ccvs.state.vt.us
Victim Impact Statements
Victim impact statements provide victims of crime with the opportunity to report to the court the consequences of the crime, including financial, social, psychological and medical impacts. After a defendant is convicted at trial or pleads guilty, victims of the offenses of conviction are contacted by the U.S. Probation Office or the U.S. Attorney's Office and given the opportunity to submit written victim impact statements. The information received will be incorporated into the pre-sentence report which is submitted to the judge prior to the sentencing hearing. The pre-sentence report is prepared by the U.S. Probation Office and must contain information on any individual against whom the offense was committed.
victimimpactform.pdf (8.28 KB)
Many victims, particularly victims of financial fraud, are interested in knowing how they can be repaid for the financial loss suffered as a result of a federal crime. In many types of federal criminal cases, it is mandatory for a defendant to pay restitution for offenses occurring after April 24, 1996. For most crimes committed prior to that date, the sentencing judge has discretion in deciding whether to order restitution depending on the defendants ability to pay. As a practical matter, however, a defendant who does not have assets or has little potential to make money may be unlikely to make meaningful restitution to the victims. The following information provides an overview of restitution in the federal court system.
The Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996, expanded the scope of mandatory restitution and consolidated procedures for the issuance of restitution orders. The Act requires the court to order full restitution in certain cases if there is an identifiable victim or victims who have suffered a physical injury or pecuniary harm. It requires the court to enter a restitution order for each defendant, without regard to the defendant's ability to pay, who has been convicted or has pled guilty to charges of:
- a crime of violence;
- an offense against property, including offenses committed by fraud or deceit; telemarketing fraud;
- sexual abuse;
- sexual exploitation and other abuses of children; domestic violence; and, tampering with consumer products.
The exception to mandatory restitution for the above categories is for an offense against property if the court makes a finding that the number of identifiable victims is so large as to make restitution impracticable or determining complex issues related to the cause or amount of the victims' losses would complicate or prolong the sentencing process to a degree that the need to provide restitution to any victim is outweighed by the burden on the sentencing process.
The court may, but is not required to, order restitution for any offense under Title 18 of the United States Code that is not covered by the mandatory restitution provisions, certain drug offenses as long as the victim is not a participant, air piracy offenses, and in any criminal case to the extent agreed to by the parties in a plea agreement.
In determining whether to award restitution in these cases the court is required to consider the amount of the loss sustained by each victim as a result of the offense, the financial resources of the defendant, the financial needs and earning ability of the defendant and the defendant's dependents, and such other factors as the court deems appropriate. To the extent the court determines that the complication and prolongation of the sentencing process involved in ordering restitution outweighs the need to provide restitution to any victims, the court may decline to do so.
Restitution As A Condition of Probation or Supervised Release
Restitution can be ordered as a condition of probation or supervised release. There must be an identifiable victim that has suffered physical injury or pecuniary loss.
Regardless of how restitution is imposed, as mandatory or discretionary, the procedures that must be followed are the same. Once a defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty at trial, the available information on each identified victim's loss, which is usually obtained by the case agent during the investigation of the case, is provided to the U. S. Probation Office by the Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case. This victim loss information is incorporated into the pre-sentence report being prepared by the U.S. Probation Officer. It is during the time between the conviction or plea and the sentencing hearing that victim impact statements are solicited from the identified victims of the convicted offenses. A letter soliciting victim impact statements from the identified victims is sent by both the U.S. Probation Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office. It is through the submission of a written victim impact statement that victims have the opportunity to submit financial loss information, as well as emotional impact information to the court. The findings of the pre-sentence report are relied upon by the judge in determining the appropriate sentence and appropriate amount of restitution.
Allowable Restitution Costs
In most cases, pain and suffering, attorney fees, lost interest, opportunity costs and tax penalties are not included in court ordered restitution. In determining loss amounts for restitution, it is important to remember that the harm suffered must be as a result of the offense of conviction. The primary consideration is whether the harm was caused by the offense conduct. The court may, however, order restitution to persons other than victims of the convicted offense if agreed to in the plea agreement.
Lost income and necessary child care, transportation, and other expenses related to participation in the investigation or prosecution of the offense or attendance at court proceedings related to the offense may be considered for restitution. Receipts and other supporting documentation should be provided to substantiate loss figures.
The court may decline to order restitution if it finds that determining restitution is too complex.
Physical Injury as a Result of the Crime
For an offense resulting in physical injury to a victim, the court may order restitution for: payment equal to the cost of necessary medical and related professional services and devices relating to physical, psychiatric, and psychological care; payment equal to the cost of necessary physical and occupational therapy and rehabilitation; and or reimbursement to the victim for income lost as a result of the offense.
Restitution in Fraud Cases
In most fraud cases, restitution may be ordered where victims of the offense of conviction have suffered the loss of money or some negotiable instrument or the damage or loss of property. The court may order a defendant to pay an amount equal to each victim's actual losses, usually the value of the principal or property fraudulently obtained.
Additional Restitution Provisions
Under the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act, if an identified victim discovers further losses after a judgment has been filed, that victim has 60 days after discovery of the losses, to petition the Court for an amended restitution order. This order may be granted only upon a showing of good cause for the failure to include such losses in the initial claim for restitution.
What You Should Know if The Defendant is Ordered to Pay You Restitution
Most victims are eager to know when they will receive their money. In most cases it will take a very long time and often victims do not receive the full amount owed to them. Typically in fraud cases there are hundreds of victims and the amounts owed are quite substantial. Restitution payments to victims are dependent upon the defendant's ability to pay. In addition, if the defendant is in prison, the defendant may not make any payment during that time or may make only very small payments.
A defendant's liability to pay a restitution order lasts twenty (20) years plus any period of incarceration, or until the death of the defendant. An order of restitution is not dischargeable in bankruptcy.
Because restitution orders are good for twenty years, it is extremely important for victims to notify the court of a change in their mailing address. The U.S. District Court Clerk's Office, Financial Section, should be notified in writing by the victim if there is a change in their mailing address.
Unless the court has ordered otherwise, restitution payments made by the defendant are disbursed by the U.S. District Court Clerk's Office to all the victims named in the restitution order in proportion to their loss. For example, if the total amount of the restitution order is $100,000 and victim A lost $25,000 and victim B lost $75,000 then victim A's loss equals 25% of the total restitution order and victim B's loss equals 75% of the total restitution order. Therefore, if the defendant makes a payment of $1,000 victim A would receive $250 and victim B would receive $750.
The Clerk's Office will not issue checks for very small amounts because it is not economically feasible to do so. Usually checks will be issued once there is at least $10.00 to disburse to each victim named in the restitution order..
If the defendant is placed on federal supervised release, the assigned U.S. Probation Officer will monitor the defendant's economic circumstances and ability to pay the restitution obligation during that time period.
As noted above, restitution payments tend to be small and it takes some time for there to be enough to send to the victims. However, if victims have been receiving payment on a consistent basis and suddenly stop receiving it, contact the U.S. Probation Office, if the defendant is on supervised release, to determine the reason. If the defendant is not on supervised release, contact the U.S. Attorney's Office Financial Litigation Unit.
If victims have information concerning a material change in the defendant's economic condition that might affect his or her ability to make restitution payments, contact the U.S. Attorney's Office Financial Litigation Unit. The U.S. Attorney's Office Financial Litigation Unit pursues various means to ensure that restitution orders are enforced to the fullest extent possible.
A victim may enforce a restitution order as if it is a civil judgment. At the victim's request, the U.S. District Court Clerk's Office will issue an abstract of judgment certifying that a judgment has been entered in his or her favor. To pursue legal action on their own behalf, victims may register or record the abstract in accordance with State law to obtain a lien against the property of the defendant.
Victims may wish to consult with a private attorney of their choice or a legal services attorney to obtain guidance about proceeding individually against a defendant to recover losses or damages sustained as a result of the crime. The U.S. Attorney's Office cannot consult with victims or advise victims regarding their right to purse civil litigation against a defendant.
A victim may at any time assign their own interest in restitution payments to the Crime Victims Fund. The Crime Victims Fund provides funding to crime victim assistance and compensation programs throughout the United States.
Victims who have questions about a restitution order entered in a criminal case prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Vermont should contact the following offices for assistance:
For questions about the restitution process or the judgment, contact:
U.S. Attorney's Office
For questions about enforcement of the restitution order or to report information about a defendant's assets, contact:
U.S. Attorney's Office
Financial Litigation Unit
For questions about payments disbursements or to report a change in mailing address, contact:
U.S. District Court Clerk's Office
P.O. Box 945
Burlington, VT. 05402
For questions about a defendant's ability to pay or to report information about a defendant's assets while on supervised release, contact:
U.S. Probation Office
11 Elmwood Ave.
Burlington, VT. 05402
Federal Bureau of Prisons Victim and Witness Notification
Qualifying federal crime victims/witnesses will be notified of the release from prison of an inmate convicted of a serious federal crime. For further information, contact the Victim-Witness Specialist at 802-951-6725 or go to The Bureau of Prisons website
Other Resources for Crime Victims
The following resources may be of assistance to victims of fraud:
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20580
Identity Theft Hotline: 1-877-438-4338
Consumer Hotline: 1-877-382-4357
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
The SEC's Office of Investor Education and Assistance serves investors who complain to the SEC about investment fraud or the mishandling of their investments by securities professionals.
Internet Crime Compliant Center (IC3)
The IFCC is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).
U.S. Postal Service Crime Hotline
Takes reports of and investigates crimes that involve the U.S. Postal Service, including mail fraud, pornography, and drug transactions by mail.
To Remove Names from Most National Mailing and Phone Lists, request must be submitted in writing to:
Mail Preference Service
Direct Marketing Association
P.O. Box 9008
Farmingdale, NY 11735
Telephone Preference Service
Direct Marketing Association
P.O. Box 9014
Farmingdale, NY 11375
American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
601 E. Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20049
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
1717 Kettner Ave., Suite 105
San Diego, CA 92102
National Credit Reporting Agencies
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
Trans Union Corporation
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
P.O. Box 949
Allen, TX 75013
NOT Toll Free: 1-888-397-3742
Resources for Victims of Crime
In addition to the victim assistance resources listed elsewhere in this document, the following entities may be of assistance to victims of federal crime:
U.S. Department of Justice
Office for Victims of Crime (OVC)
810 Seventh Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20531
U.S. Department of Justice
Office for Victims of Crime Resource Center
Toll Free: 1-800-627-6872
M-F Eastern Time: 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS)
P.O. Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-600
National Center for Victims of Crime
2000 M Street, N.W., Suite 480
Washington, DC 20036
National Organization for Victim Assistance
1730 Park Rd. N.W.
Washington, DC 20010
National Domestic Violence Hotline
(Operated by Texas Council on Family Violence and Support with Federal Assistance)
Vermont Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline
Violence Against Women Act
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This Act, and the 1996 and 2000 additions to the Act, recognize that domestic violence is a national problem and that federal laws can help an overburdened state and local criminal justice system. In 1994 and 1996, Congress also passed changes to the Gun Control Act making it a federal crime in certain situations for domestic abusers to possess guns. The majority of domestic violence cases will continue to be handled by state and local authorities. In some cases, however, the federal laws and the benefits gained from applying those laws may be the most appropriate course of action.
Who to Contact about a Federal Domestic Violence Crime
For immediate domestic violence emergencies call 911. For a possible federal Gun Control Act violation, call the local Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) Office. The Vermont ATF Office number is 802-951-6593. For a possible VAWA violation, call the local Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Office. The Burlington FBI Office number is 802-863-6316. If you are unsure of the violation, call your local police department.
Federal Domestic Violence Crimes and Penalties
It is a federal crime under VAWA:
● to cross state lines or enter or leave Indian country and commit or attempt to commit a crime of violence against an "intimate partner". 18 U.S.C. § 2261
● to cross state lines to stalk or harass or to stalk or harass within the maritime or territorial lands of the United States (this includes military bases and Indian country) or to stalk by mail or computer. 18 U.S.C. § 2261A
● to cross state lines or enter or leave Indian country and violate a qualifying Protection Order (in Vermont an abuse prevention order is commonly known as a restraining order). 18 U.S.C. § 2262
It is a federal crime under the Gun Control Act:
● to possess a firearm and/or ammunition while subject to a qualifying Protection Order (Restraining Order). 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8)
● to possess a firearm and/or ammunition after conviction of a qualifying misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9)
A violation of the Gun Control Act, § 922(g)(8) and § 922(g)(9), carries a maximum prison term of ten years. A violation under VAWA, § 2261, § 2261A and § 2262, carries a maximum prison term of five years to life, depending on the seriousness of the bodily injury caused by the defendant.
Qualifying Domestic Violence Misdemeanors
Possession of a firearm and or ammunition after conviction of a "qualifying" domestic violence misdemeanor is a federal crime under Section 922(g)(9). Generally, the misdemeanor will "qualify" if the conviction was for a crime committed by an intimate partner, parent or guardian of the victim that required the use or attempted use of physical force or the threatened use of a deadly weapon. In addition, Section 922(g)(9) imposes other legal requirements. The United States Attorney's Office will examine your case and determine whether the prior domestic violence misdemeanor conviction qualifies under Section 922(g)(9).
Qualifying Protection Orders
Possession of a firearm and or ammunition while subject to a Protection Order (Restraining Order), and interstate violation of a Protection Order (Restraining Order), are federal crimes if the Protection Order "qualifies" under Sections 2262 and 922(g)(8). Generally, a Protection Order (Restraining Order) will qualify under federal law if reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard was given to the person against whom the Court's Order was entered and if the Order forbids future threats of violence. The United States Attorney's Office can evaluate your Protection Order (Restraining Order) to see if it qualifies. Therefore, you should keep copies of all Protection (Restraining) Orders.
Definition of Intimate Partner
Generally, the federal laws recognize an intimate partner as a spouse, a former spouse, a person who shares a child in common with the victim, or a person who lives or has lived with the victim.
Federal Domestic Violence Victims' Rights
A victim of a federal domestic violence offense has the following rights under 42 U.S.C. § 10606(b):
● The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim's dignity and privacy;
● The right to be reasonably protected from the accused offender;
● The right to be notified of court proceedings;
● The right to be present at all public court proceedings related to the offense, unless the court determines that testimony by the victim would be materially affected if the victim heard other testimony at trial;
● The right to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case;
● The right to restitution; and,
● The right to information about the conviction, sentencing, imprisonment, and release of the offender.
In a VAWA case, the Court shall order restitution to repay the victim the full amount of losses. Those losses may include costs for medical or psychological care, physical therapy, transportation for court appearances, temporary housing, child care expenses, lost income, attorney's fees, costs incurred in obtaining a civil protection order, and other losses suffered by the victim as a direct result of the offense. In a Gun Control Act case, the Court may order restitution. It is wise to keep a record of all expenses caused by the domestic violence crime.
Office of the Victims' Rights Ombudsman
Visit the Office of the Victim's Rights Ombudsman website.