WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM A CRIME VICTIM?
Remember that you are not alone. Resources and assistance are available. If you are injured, seek medical attention. Some injuries may not be apparent for several days. In order to document the crime and establish your legal right to recover money damages, you should:
A crime victim who suffers physical and/or emotional injury may be eligible for financial assistance from the state Victims of Crime Program if his or her losses are not reimbursed by another source, such as insurance. Family members or members of the victim’s household also may be eligible for assistance as Derivative Victims.Losses covered by this program include medical and dental expenses; mental health counseling; funeral and burial costs; loss of financial support, wages or income; and job retraining expenses (if employed). Limited funds for relocation and/or security measures may also be available. The loss of personal property or cash is not covered.The crime must have been reported to a law enforcement agency and the victim must cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of anyone suspected of committing the crime. The victim must also cooperate with the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board staff and/or local Victim-Witness Assistance Center personnel in the claim verification process. Other limitations and conditions apply.
More information and applications for compensation are available from local Victim-Witness Assistance Centers located throughout the state. These centers are geared to assist you in applying for this assistance. Applicants may also be assisted by a private attorney. The state will pay private attorney fees of 10 percent of the approved award (up to a maximum of $500 per claim). For additional information, call the Victims of Crime Program toll-free at 1-800-777-9229.
Contact the local prosecutor’s office. Look under government listings at the front of your telephone directory and locate the listing for the Office of the District Attorney or City Attorney. Be prepared to provide as much of the following information as possible: your name, the date and location of the crime, the suspect’s name, the case number (if known), and the nature of the crime or charges.You may also call the court clerk at your local courthouse. Again, provide as much of the above information as possible.
Call the number listed on the subpoena to determine if you must go to court or if you can be placed on call. On call, means that you agree to attend court when the person who issued the subpoena notifies you.Unless you notify the person who issued the subpoena, you must appear in court at the date and time specified in the subpoena. If you do not show up, the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest.
If you are concerned that you could face criminal liability by testifying, you should consult an attorney.
Yes. If possible, you should tell the prosecutor that you plan to attend and speak at sentencing. If you require any special accommodations for a disability, you should advise the court or the prosecutor before the hearing date.As a crime victim, you have the right to attend all sentencing proceedings and to be notified before each hearing. You may attend personally, or have an attorney or support person attend for you. At the hearings, you have the right to reasonably express your views concerning the crime, the person responsible, the impact on you and your family, the need for restitution and the sentence which you believe is appropriate. A Victim-Witness advocate can help you prepare a statement.
If the victim is a minor, two parents or guardians may appear on his or her behalf. If the victim is deceased, the next-of-kin may address the judge at sentencing.
Yes, you may ask the judge to impose a Restitution Order. It may include the value of stolen or damaged property, medical expenses, and wages or profits lost due to the victim’s injury or the time spent in court or assisting the police. If the victim is a minor, the victim’s family can recover wages or profits lost while caring for the injured minor, attending court proceedings or assisting the police. Expenses incurred by an adult victim in relocating away from the defendant, if necessary for his or her personal safety, and expenses to install or increase residential security can also be recovered.You should present documentation to the court to support your monetary claim. If the amount of restitution cannot be determined at the time of sentencing, the judge may allow it to be set later. When the judge orders the offender to pay restitution to you, request a copy of the defendant’s financial disclosure and a certified copy of the restitution order from the court clerk. Make several copies and keep the original in a safe place.
The judge must order full restitution unless there are extraordinary reasons for not doing so.
If the offender is sentenced to county jail or placed on probation, you should contact the county’s Victim-Witness Assistance Center, district attorney’s office or probation department to inquire about restitution-collection procedures. In some counties, restitution payments are collected from the offender and forwarded to the victim.If the offender was a juvenile when the crime was committed, the minor’s parents or guardians may be legally responsible for payment of court-ordered restitution. The county’s Victim-Witness Assistance Center can provide information about the applicability of this provision to your particular case.
Offenders are required to disclose their assets and income to the court when restitution is ordered. The court will provide you with that disclosure and a certified copy of the court order. If the probation department or other agency does not collect your restitution, you can enforce the restitution order as a civil judgment. To do this, take the original order to the appropriate civil court for filing and entry of judgment. You may wish to contact an attorney to assist you. Attorney’s fees, collection costs and interest on the unpaid portion of the judgment may be recovered from the defendant. A civil judgment is valid for 10 years and may be renewed until the obligation is satisfied; it may not be discharged in bankruptcy.
Your ability to enforce a restitution order may be affected if you received payment for the same losses from the state’s Victims of Crime Program. The court must then order the offender to reimburse the state for the program’s compensation to the victim.
Crime victims, their next-of-kin, and parents or guardians of minor victims have the right to be notified that the offender has died or escaped, or is to be considered for parole, placed in a reentry facility, or released. However, you must submit a written request for this notification to the California Department of Corrections (adult offender) or California Youth Authority (juvenile offender).You have the right to appear at parole hearings to suggest special parole conditions, such as restrictions on the offender’s placement in the community or future contact with you. You also have rights to assistance at parole hearings and in collecting court-ordered restitution from an offender still in prison or on parole. In addition, the Department of Corrections can provide help if you are harassed or intimidated by an offender.
You must file a written request for these services with the Department of Corrections or Youth Authority. Contact a county Victim-Witness advocate for assistance and the appropriate request forms.
Yes. In many circumstances a crime victim can sue the offender for compensatory and punitive damages. For example, an assault and robbery victim could sue for medical expenses, property loss, pain and suffering, and punitive damages. If the offender is a minor, a victim can also sue the minor’s parent(s) or legal guardian(s) for damages.In some circumstances the victim may bring a suit against third parties, such as property owners or employers, who allowed the crime to occur.
There are time limitations on most types of civil claims. Generally, claims for personal injury or death must be filed within one year of the crime. For this reason, it is important to speak with legal counsel as soon as possible to avoid missing any deadlines.
First, make sure any physical injuries are addressed and get to a safe place. Then phone 911 (or ask someone else to do it) and, while you’re waiting for the police to arrive, try to write down as many details of the crime and your attacker as possible — especially details of his or her physical characteristics and face, clothing, voice, and any unique physical markings or tattoos. Although this can be upsetting, it is during the time immediately following the incident that you will most likely be able to recall the greatest number of details with the greatest degree of clarity. These details will assist you when providing a statement to the police and could be essential in apprehending and successfully prosecuting your assailant.When the police arrive, they will investigate, collect evidence, and obtain your statement. If the police are meeting you at the scene of the crime, try not to touch or move anything, because doing so may compromise the integrity of the crime scene. When giving your statement, consider having a family member or friend present – not only for emotional support, but also to help validate or corroborate your statement. Following a violent experience, your mind may be racing and your emotions running high, and having someone you trust there with you can help.
The First 24 Hours following a violent encounter can be extremely difficult. You are at the initial stage of what may be a life-altering experience that can affect you in fundamental and unforeseen ways. You are probably, and understandably, overwhelmed. Try to remember that it can take a while for the full extent of the physical and emotional impacts to set in, so consider getting support mechanisms in place (friends, family, counselors, doctors, etc.) as soon as possible. Try to be patient with yourself and allow yourself the time you need to work through the healing process. It is not an easy road to travel, but there is hope, help, and healing ahead.
Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are mental health conditions that can be induced by a wide range of traumatic experiences, including violent crime. In general, they are natural physiological responses to an overwhelming emotional and/or physical trauma. While the symptoms of ASD and PTSD can vary depending on an individual’s personality, the nature of the trauma and other factors, common symptoms of ASD and PTSD include emotional “numbness,” depression, disrupted sleep, a sense of alienation, and a lack of interest in social activities or sexual intimacy.The main differences between ASD and PTSD are that ASD is typically diagnosed only within the first month or so following trauma and is sometimes characterized by a greater degree of “disassociation.” In many cases, experts agree that ASD can lead to the longer-term PTSD if not treated effectively.
The police want me to help with their search for and prosecution of the offender(s), but I’m very reluctant. I’ve heard stories of criminals freed on loopholes or technicalities, and I’m afraid of going through all that for nothing. Should I risk it?
It is true that many perpetrators elude justice through technicalities in the law, while still others are released from prison with minimal time served for vicious crimes committed. As frustrating as this is, there are at least two major reasons to vigorously pursue justice through the court system:
For some, it may be too difficult and painful, or personal safety concerns might outweigh the need to report the crime or assist law enforcement. Ultimately, deciding whether and when to report a crime is a personal decision. In general, survivors rarely regret at least trying to find justice through the court system. There are, on the other hand, many who regret not pursuing the apprehension and prosecution of their offender(s).
Many people are astonished to learn that more than half of violent crime victims do not report the crimes committed against them. There are many reasons why victims do not go to the police. They may feel ashamed or frightened (as is often the case with domestic violence and sexual assault). They may believe that going to the police is futile, or they may simply want to try to forget the event because it is too painful. For others, there are cultural or language barriers that make reporting and seeking help difficult.What is clear, though, is that refusing to report crime does not help victims or potential victims; rather, only criminals benefit from non-reporting.
“Survivor’s guilt” is a term used to describe a sense of self-blame and remorse felt by a person who has experienced or witnessed a life-threatening event during which others did not survive or were more badly injured. Survivors may also make comparisons between themselves and others who endured similar experiences that resulted in greater injury or death. They begin to question, “Why them and not me?” Survivor’s guilt can be particularly anguishing in certain situations — for example, for a mother who has seen her child harmed, or for someone who witnessed the murder of a friend.Another aspect of survivor’s guilt relates to the actions (or inactions) taken to survive an event. It is common for survivors to focus on what they did or did not do to perhaps prevent violence against a family member or friend instead of what they did to protect themselves.
It’s also important to understand that survivor’s guilt can occur even for those who were not present during a violent event. Survivor’s guilt can be experienced by friends, family members, law enforcement officials, or anyone feeling a sense of responsibility or who might be haunted by that nagging question — “Why them and not me?”
For many, “hypervigilance” is a natural response following violent trauma, whereby your mind and body instinctively remain alert to any additional potential threats — real or imagined — to your wellbeing. Hypervigilance can be an outcome of the anxiety experienced as part of Acute Stress Disorder or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Feelings of hypervigilance can come and go at different times, often trigged by certain people or situations. During a time of heightened hypervigilance, many survivors experience strong bursts of nervous energy — a drive to keep “doing something.” Often this energy is subconsciously aimed at managing the anguish, pain, and anger resulting from their violent experience.Symptoms of hypervigilence can include sleeplessness, anxiety, panic attacks, and obsessive or obsessive-compulsive behavior. It is important to recognize hypervigilence and to try to channel that energy into constructive activities, and to find a way to rest and relax.
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