Victim's Assistance FAQ's

- What if someone threatens me?
I you are threatened or harassed, report it to the police or the attorney for the state immediately.  
Such threats or harassment may be a crime that itself can be prosecuted, and steps can be taken to prevent further problems.  As far as reasonably practical, the address of the victim may not be a part of the court file, except as necessary to identify the place of crime.  The victim's phone number is not to be a part of the file.

 - What if the defense attorney contacts me?
In representing a client, a defense attorney may contact you and want to talk to you about the case.  Keep in mind that you do not have to talk to anyone about the crime, including the attorney for the state or the defense attorney.  If you wish, you may simply ask the defense attorney to speak with the attorney for the state regarding the case.  If you do wish to speak  with the defense attorney, you may request that the attorney for the state be present.

 - Does the judge appoint investigators?
 Often an investigator will contact the victim and tell the victim that he or she has been appointed by the judge or the court to investigate the case.  In almost all of these instances that investigator, although appointed by the judge, is working for the defense attorney.  Just as with any other person, you do not have to speak with an investigator if you do not wish.  If you have any doubts about someone who claims to be a court-appointed investigator, feel free to contact the attorney for the state before speaking with that person

 - What is plea bargaining?
In most cases the attorney for the state will recommend a certain punishment to the defendant in exchange for a plea of guilty or no contest.  If the defendant agrees, this is considered a "plea bargain agreement."  In practice, most criminal cases are resoled with a plea bargain agreement.  You should speak to the attorney for the state handling your case concerning any potential plea bargains in your case.

 - Why was the case reset before going to trial?
Many times a number of cases are set for trial on the same day.  Obviously, not all of them can be tried.  However, courts often set more than one case for trial on the same day because some cases are plea bargained, some witnesses may be missing in one case, someone is sick in another case, etc.  In addition, courts will often give priority to trials of defendants who are in jail.  If the defendant in your case is out on bond, your case may be at the "back of the line."  Therefore, your case may not go to trial on the first trial setting, or on a number of settings thereafter.  As far as it is reasonably practical, it is the responsibility of the attorney for the state to contact you if the case is reset, but one quick phone call on your part on the day of the setting could save you a lot of frustration and prevent a waste of your time.

 - Why do I have to be outside the courtroom during the trial?
Under Texas law, witnesses who are going to testify in a case generally must remain outside of the courtroom during the trial so that they do not hear any of the other testimony.  Depending on the circumstances, however, the victim may be allowed to remain in the courtroom during the trial.

 - What happens if I change my mind and decide not to prosecute?
The whole community has a stake in prosecuting wrongdoers.  The complaint is now the state's case, and it is not in your power to drop charges.  however, if you are experiencing anxiety about testifying, please discuss your concerns with the victim assistance coordinator or the prosecuting attorney.  They can help you deal with questions about your case.

- Can I be compensated for my loss?
In many instances, you may be compensated for injuries you have suffered as a victim.  One way you can be compensated is through restitution by the defendant.  As a condition of probation, a defendant may be required to reimburse you for expenses that you incurred as a result of the crime.  This restitution may also be ordered as a condition of parole, to start when the defendant is release from prison.  If you were the victim of a sexual assault and underwent a medical examination as a result of that assault, the law enforcement agency requesting the exam will pay the expense.  In addition, you may be eligible for help under the Crime Victims' Compensation Act.

 - What is the Crime Victims' Compensation Act?
The Crime Victims' Compensation Act was passed to assist victims and their families with certain out-of-pocket expenses related to crime.  Victims of crimes involving physical injury, emotional harm, or death may qualify for financial assistance with expenses such as medical bills, counseling, burial and funerals, and loss of earnings or support.  Total claims may not exceed $50,000, unless the victim suffered total and permanent disability.  Property loss is not a reimbursable expense.  The victim or claimant must cooperate with the prosecution of the case.  Your victim assistance coordinator can provide you with as application and assistance in completing the form of you need it.

 - What is a "Victim Impact Statement"?
A Victim Impact Statement is a document that victims and their families can use to record the impact the crime has had on them.  The Victim Impact Statement is not a public document.  It may be viewed only by the probation officer, the judge prior to sentencing, and the parole officials prior to the parole decision.  The defendant and the defendant's attorney may also see it before sentencing.  The sheet with your address is deleted before being sent to the court.  The Statement lets you request notification of any parole proceedings regarding the defendant and provides a place to list contact information that may be needed later.

 - Where do I go for help?
Every prosecutor's office has a victim assistance coordinator to help you with your rights through the steps of the criminal justice process.  Naturally, the attorney for the state will focus on the successful prosecution of the defendant.  However, as a victim of crime you may have additional concerns or needs.  There are social service agencies that can help you.  Talk with your victim assistance coordinator for more information.