VICTIM/WITNESS GUIDE TO JUSTICE

If you are the victim of a crime or a witness to one, your assistance is essential to our criminal justice system. Successful prosecution of a criminal case depends upon witnesses who are willing to give their time and testimony. The State Attorney's Office is aware of the problems victims and witnesses of a crime must face as they become involved in the judicial system. As your State Attorney, I strive to see that victims and witnesses receive fair and considerate treatment from those who work in this office.

This brochure will explain various phases of the judicial process, guide you to resources for assistance and explain your rights within the criminal justice system.


Brad King, State Attorney
Fifth Judicial Circuit


The following are some terms and their definitions that will help you understand the Judicial System:

PROSECUTOR: Every criminal case is handled by an Assistant State Attorney who is a lawyer. The job of the Assistant State Attorney is to prosecute those who break the laws of the State of Florida.


VICTIM: A victim of a crime is someone who has suffered psychological, physical or financial harm because of direct criminal actions by someone else.


WITNESS: A witness is someone who may know something about a crime that has been committed. The slightest information about a case may be important for successful prosecution. Please contact the State Attorney's Office if you are harassed or threatened because you are a witness on a criminal case. If the State Attorney's Office is closed, contact your local law enforcement agency.


DEFENDANT: The defendant is the person who is charged with committing a crime.

DEFENSE ATTORNEY: A defense attorney is someone hired by the defendant or appointed by the court to defend and protect the constitutional rights of the accused.


SUBPOENA: A subpoena is a Court Order directing you to be present at the time and place stated. PLEASE READ YOUR SUBPOENA CAREFULLY. In the next few months you may be subpoenaed to testify at: 

  1. State Attorney Investigation: The Assistant State Attorney must decide whether there is sufficient information to take a case to trial. Although you may have already told everything you know to a Law Enforcement Officer, it may be necessary that the attorney here it from you under oath.
  2. Deposition: Florida law gives the attorney for the defendant the right to interview all witnesses in the case after the charges are filed. The defendant's attorney will ask you questions which you must answer truthfully. An Assistant State Attorney will be with you during your deposition. You also have the right to request the presence of a Victim Advocate.
  3. Trial: In most cases, the defendant will plead guilty or no contest before trial. However, in some cases, the defendant will go to trial and you may be required to testify in court.


VICTIM/WITNESS COUNSELOR: The State Attorney's Office has Victim/Witness Counselors available to assist you through the judicial process. Please feel free to contact them with any questions you may have about the judicial process, your rights as a victim or witness, and any medical or social services you may require. If you are required to come to the State Attorney's Office or Courthouse, the Victim/Witness Counselor is available to discuss with you any questions you may have about transportation, childcare, courtroom attire or parking. Please discuss your needs with them.


VICTIM INFORMATION


RESTITUTION: You have the right to request restitution from the defendant. The court may order restitution for medical bills, psychological care, lost wages, property damage or loss and funeral or related expenses if death occurred.  You may be required to provide documentation of your loss.


VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT:
You have the right to submit a Victim Impact Statement which can be reviewed by our office and the court.  The Impact Statement provides you with the opportunity to express your feelings about the crime, its impact on
your life and your thoughts on sentencing.  The Impact Statement is also used to record your loss, expenses, or injuries you received as the result of having been a Victim.


CRIMES COMPENSATION: The State of Florida has established the Crimes Compensation
Program.  Crimes compensation is available to eligible applicants who are the victim of violence or to family members for the funeral expense of a loved one, minor witnesses and elderly or disabled adults.


CRUCIAL PROCEEDINGS: You have the right to be informed, present and when relevant, heard at all crucial judicial proceedings.  Please contact the Victim/Witness Counselor if you wish additional information about the case proceedings.
ASSISTANCE WITH PROPERTY RETURN: In some cases, property can be returned to the victim pending judicial proceedings.  However, in other cases, property must be retained by Law Enforcement in the event the case goes to trial.


OFFICE CONSULTATION: If you are the victim of a crime, the guardian of a child who is a victim, or the next of kin to a homicide victim, you have the right to discuss your case with the Assistant State Attorney or Victim/Witness Counselor.


EMPLOYER/CREDITOR NOTIFICATION: At your request, the Victim/Witness Counselor will notify your employer/creditor of the necessity of your participation in the judicial process.  At your request, the Victim/Witness Counselor will also notify your creditors of any financial strain you may incur due to your participation in the judicial process.


ARREST AND RELEASE OF THE ACCUSED: You have the right to information about the arrest and release of the accused.  You may receive notification by mail or by phone, or you may contact our office if you wish additional information.
FINAL DISPOSITION: You have the right to information about the disposition of the case.


ESCAPE OR RELEASE: You have the right to be informed if the defendant should be released or escape from a commitment facility.


PUBLIC RECORDS EXEMPTION: Victims of sexual battery, aggravated child abuse, aggravated stalking, harassment, aggravated battery or domestic violence have the right to request that the State Attorney's Office keep specified information exempt from public record.


TIMELY RESOLUTION: You have the right to request a timely resolution of your case.


PRE-SENTENCE INVESTIGATIVE REPORT: You have the right to review portions of any pre-sentence investigative report prior to the sentencing hearing.  Please let your Victim/Witness Counselor know if you wish to review
this report.


STANDING: As the victim of a crime, you have standing to assert all rights provided by law and the Florida Constitution.  Please contact your Victim/Witness Counselor for information concerning your rights as the victim of a crime.


PLEASE CONTACT YOUR VICTIM/WITNESS COUNSELOR IF YOU NEED ASSISTANCE:

 
Citrus County            (352) 341-6670
Hernando County     (352) 754-4255
Lake County               (352) 742-4236
Marion County           (352) 671-5800
Sumter County           (352) 569-6650