Victim / Witness Rights
What to Expect From the System & What the System Expects From You
As a victim or witness, your role is critical. You have seen, heard, know or experienced something that is important to the investigation of this case. You may be interviewed by law enforcement to identify the assailant, if recognized; to help in finding the crime scene; identify stolen property, etc.
Please keep our agency advised of where you are living and your telephone number (work and home).
The criminal justice process starts with a crime.
There are four basic ways a case can proceed:
- A person may be arrested at the time of the crime. Law enforcement completes an arrest document stating the charges against the accused. If no arrest is made at the time of the crime, law enforcement investigates:
- If appropriate, law enforcement presents a sworn complaint to the State Attorney with the evidence to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and the suspect may have committed the crime. The State Attorney may file a document, called an information, with the Clerk of the Court charging the suspect with the criminal offense. If an information is filed, the Judge, through the Clerk of the Court, may issue a capias.
- Based upon the investigation, an affidavit of probable cause is presented to the Judge by the State Attorney. If probable cause is found, the Judge may issue an arrest warrant. Both the capias and the arrest warrant direct the police department to arrest the person believed to have committed the crime.
The accused may be arrested based upon the investigation and indictment returned by the grand jury.
If you receive injuries, you may be eligible for crime victim compensation to help with medical bills, lost wages, funeral expenses, etc.
For Information: Bureau of Crimes Compensation, 850-488-0848, or 800-226-6667.
What if My Case Involves a Juvenile?
A juvenile (under 18 years of age) who is accused of a crime and arrested or charged with a misdemeanor or non-violent felony, may be immediately released to the custody of their parents or guardian. The juveniles who are not released will go to a detention hearing at 9 A.M. the morning following the arrest.
Change of School
The victim, in certain circumstances, may request that the offender be required to attend a different school than the victim or the siblings of the victim.
How Long Will it Take for an Arrest to Be Made?
As a victim you have a right to be notified of an arrest. Each case will proceed differently. Interviewing witnesses and the collection of evidence can be a timely process. There is no set time frame.
Bail or Bond
Bail or bond is an amount of money or property posted by the defendant for his/her release to ensure the defendant appears in court. The amount of bail is set by the Judge at the time that the arrest warrant or arrest capias is issued.
The Court considers: the nature of the offense, evidence, defendant’s employment status, mental condition, their ties to the community, and previous convictions before setting bail. In less violent crimes, the defendant may be allowed to post bond and be released immediately.
First Appearance Hearing
In more violent crimes or if the defendant cannot post bond, within hours of arrest, the Court holds a “First Appearance” hearing. The Judge decides whether the defendant can be released and if so, what conditions are necessary to protect the victim/witness. Bail may also be set when the arrest is made on probable cause by law enforcement. There are times when the defendant is released on his/her own recognizance (signature bond). The Judge can include special conditions ordering the defendant to have “no contact” with the victim and/or witness. You may attend the First Appearance hearing at 9 A.M. the morning following the arrest.
Appearance of Victim or Next of Kin to Make Statement at Sentencing Hearing; Submission of Written Statement
At the sentencing hearing, and prior to the imposition of sentence upon any defendant who has been convicted of any felony or who has pleaded guilty or nolo contendere to any crime, including a criminal violation of a provision of chapter 316, the sentencing court shall permit the victim of the crime for which the defendant is being sentenced, or the next of kin of the victim if the victim has died from causes related to the crime, to:
- Appear before the sentencing court for the purpose of making a statement under oath for the record; or
- Submit a written statement under oath to the office of the state attorney, which statement shall be filed with the sentencing court.
The state attorney or any assistant state attorney shall advise all victims or, when appropriate, their next of kin that statements, whether oral or written, shall relate solely to the facts of the case and the extent of any harm, including social, psychological, or physical harm, financial losses, and loss of earnings directly or indirectly resulting from the crime for which the defendant is being sentenced. The court may refuse to accept a negotiated plea and order the defendant to stand trial.
Presence of Victim Advocate During Discovery Deposition
At the request of the victim, the victim advocate designated by the state attorney’s office, sheriff’s office, or municipal police department, or one representative from a not-for-profit victim services organization, including, but not limited to, rape crisis centers, domestic violence advocacy groups, and alcohol abuse or substance abuse groups shall be permitted to attend and be present during any deposition of the victim.
Testimony of Victim of Sex Offense
The victim of a sex offense shall be informed of the right to have the courtroom cleared of certain persons when the victim is testifying concerning that offense.