Message from the Solicitor Kevin Brackett:
As a victim or witness of a crime you play a crucial role in bringing the offender to justice. Without your cooperation in a case the defendant may well go unpunished. Therefore, it is important that you be made to feel part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
As Solicitor I realize that in the past the rights and feelings of victims and witnesses have often been neglected by the criminal justice system. My office has attempted to remedy this situation by providing a full range of services to you through the Victim-Witness Assistance Program. The purpose of this program is to offer support, information and assistance to victims and witnesses as their case makes its way through the criminal justice system. It is our goal to insure that your voice is heard and that you are not forgotten or ignored after a crime has been committed.
In the unfortunate event you or a member of your family become a victim of a criminal act or a witness to one, please do not hesitate to contact my Victim-Witness Program. My staff and I understand you may suffer inconvenience and personal hardship as a result of your encounter with criminal activity. We are here to help you.
When a crime occurs, the "people of the state" represented by the Solicitor or one of his assistants, prosecute the case. The Victim-Witness Advocates inform victims of their rights. They act as liaisons between the victims and other agencies. They attend court hearings with victims or attend on their behalf. They keep the victims informed of hearing dates, case updates and defendants sentences. They set up pretrial conferences upon a Solicitor’s request and attend them. They attend hearings when requested to attend by the victim or their family.
Introduction to Victim-Witness Assistance:
If you are a victim of a crime or a witness to one, your assistance is vital to our criminal justice system. It is only though your cooperation that criminals can be brought to justice. The following information will help you understand what services are available to assist you, what happens in bringing a case to trial, and your rights as a victim or witness.
Victim-Witness Assistance Program:
During the time it takes to prepare your case for court by law enforcement and the Solicitor’s Office, the Victim-Witness Assistance Program will keep you informed and provide help that includes:
Status and case management report of your case
Support and assistance while attending court
Social service referrals
Claims for victim’s compensation
Attempted restitution assistance
Preparation of Victim Impact Statement
Counseling and follow-up
Special attention for the young, elderly and disabled
Employer and school contact
As a victim of a violent crime, you may be eligible for victim compensation from the State Office of Victim Assistance. Contact the Solicitor’s Victim-Witness Program. IF you qualify, you may be paid for expenses resulting from the crime such as loss of earnings or unpaid medical expenses.
You may be entitled to reimbursement of expenses you have incurred by way of personal injury to property loss suffered as a result of a crime. There is no funding available for stolen or damaged personal property. However you may request the Judge who sentences the defendant after he is found guilty, or pleads guilty, to order the defendant to reimburse you for your loss. Depending on the circumstances, the judge may or may not require the defendant to pay restitution. You can also seek the advice of a civil attorney to attempt to regain your losses.
It is up to you to prove the amount of your loss to the court. Be sure to keep good records and bring them with you to all conferences and court appearances.
There are sixteen judicial circuits in the state. Each circuit has one solicitor who is the chief prosecuting attorney. The Solicitor and his assistants represent the State (people) in the prosecution of all criminal cases.
A subpoena is an order directing you to be present at the time and place stated. You may receive your subpoena by mail or in person. Bring your subpoena when you appear on the requested day. If the subpoena requires you to bring an item of evidence, please have it with you.
In many cases the law requires that a preliminary hearing be held. If so, your first court appearance may be required at this hearing which is held by a Magistrate without a jury. Here the Magistrate listens to the evidence of the crime and determines whether the case should be sent to the Grand Jury for its consideration. (Normally only a part of the evidence is presented at this time.) The defense attorney is usually present and may ask you questions. If notified, you should appear at the time and place specified. Please feel free to call if you have any questions.
The Grand Jury is composed of 18 people who meet prior to each term of court. They consider each case presented to them and determine once again if probable cause has been shown. If probable cause is shown, the Grand Jury returns a True Bill of Indictment, which allows the case to go to trial in General Sessions Court (Criminal Court.) If the Grand Jury does not find probable cause, it returns a No Bill of Indictment, which ends the case. Unless notified, it is not necessary for you to appear before the Grand Jury. Please feel free to contact the Victim-Witness Assistance Program about a Grand Jury date.
Trial or Plea:
The trial will be held in the County Courthouse. In some cases, a trial will not be required because the defendant will plead guilty. When this happens, your testimony will not be required; however, each victim has the right and privilege to be present and address the Judge before sentencing.
Rights of Victims and Witnesses:
To be treated with dignity and compassion
To have protection from intimidation and harm
To be informed concerning the criminal justice process
The right to reparation
To preservation of property and employment
To due process in criminal court
To special recognition for the very young, elderly, handicapped and others with special needs
If You Become a Victim:
1) First, report the crime to law enforcement
2) Then contact the York County Solicitor’s Office Victim-Witness Assistance Program at (803) 628-3023
If you have any fears regarding your involvement in the case, contact the Victim/Witness Assistance Program. On extremely rare occasions you may receive a threat. A person who threatens or harasses a witness is obstructing justice and may be committing a crime. If you are threatened, immediately contact your local police/sheriff’s department or the Solicitor’s Office.