Victim Services

VICTIM'S RIGHTS
 
What is the Victim's Rights Division?
 
The Victims' Rights Division of the Walker County District Attorney's Office was established to provide information, assistance, and support to victims of crime in Walker County. The Code of Criminal Procedure Article 56.04 states that every District Attorney's Office must have a victim assistance coordinator. The coordinators are liaisons between the victim and the prosecutor handling the case and provide crime victims with information about their rights and the criminal justice system including ongoing information about the status of a case. The Coordinator also provides referrals to appropriate social service agencies to assist crime victims in coping with the impact of the crime. The criminal justice system can be confusing and overwhelming to those who are not familiar with it. The Victim Coordinator is committed to helping victims and witnesses through the process by providing them with the help and services necessary to assist their recovery of the criminal act.
 
Crime Victim Right's in Texas
 
Victim means a person who is the victim of an offense of sexual assault, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, or injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual or who has suffered personal injury or death as a result of the criminal conduct of another. A close relative is a spouse, parent, adult brother/sister or adult child of a deceased victim or the guardian of a victim. As a victim, guardian of a victim, or close relative of a deceased victim you are entitled to the following rights with the criminal justice system:
  • The right to receive from law enforcement agencies the adequate protection from harm and threats arising from the cooperation with prosecution efforts;
  • The right to have the magistrate take the safety of the victim or his family into consideration as an element in fixing the amount of bail for the accused;
  • The right, if requested, to be informed (a) by the attorney representing the state of relevant court proceedings, including appellate proceedings, and to be informed if those court proceedings have been canceled or rescheduled prior to the event; and (b) by an appellate court of decisions of the court, after the decisions are entered but before the decisions are made public;
  • The right to be informed, when requested, by a peace officer concerning the defendant's right to bail and the procedures in criminal investigations and by the district attorney's office concerning the general procedures in the criminal justice system, including general procedures in guilty plea negotiations and arrangements, restitution, and the appeals and parole process;
  • The right to provide pertinent information to a probation department conducting a pre-sentencing investigation concerning the impact of the offense on the victim and his family by testimony, written statements, or any other manner prior to any sentencing of the offender;
  • The right to receive information regarding compensation to victims of crime as provided by Subchapter B, Chapter 56, including information related to the costs that may be compensated under that Act and the amount of compensation, eligibility for compensation, and procedures for application for compensation under the Act, the payment for a medical examination under Article 56.06 of this code for a victim of a sexual assault, and when requested, a referral to available social service agencies that may offer additional assistance;
  • The right to be informed, upon request, of parole procedures, to participate in the parole process, to be notified, if requested of parole proceedings concerning a defendant in the victim's case, to provide to the Board of Pardons and Paroles for inclusion in the defendant's file information to be considered by the board prior to the parole of any defendant convicted of any crime subject to this Act, and to be notified, if requested, of the defendant's release;
  • The right to be provided with a waiting area, separate or secured from other witnesses, including the offender and relatives of the offender, before testifying in any proceeding concerning the offender; if a separate waiting area is not available, other safeguards should be taken to minimize the victim's contact with the offender and the offender's relatives and witnesses, before and during court proceedings;
  • The right to prompt return of any property of the victim that is held by a law enforcement agency or the attorney for the state as evidence when the property is no longer required for that purpose;
  • The right to have the attorney for the state notify the employer of the victim, if requested, of the necessity of the victim's cooperation and testimony in a proceeding that may necessitate the absence of the victim from work for good cause;
  • The right to counseling, on request, regarding acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and testing for AIDS, HIV, antibodies to HIV, or infection with any other probably causative agent of AIDS, if the offense is an offense under Section 21.11 (a) (1), 22.011 or 22.021, Penal Code. (Sexual Assault, Aggravated Sexual Assault, or Indecency with a Child by Contact);
  • The right to request victim-offender mediation coordinated by the Victim Services Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice;
  • The right to be informed of the uses of a victim impact statement and the statement's purpose in the criminal justice system, to complete the victim impact statement, and to have the victim impact statement considered: (a) by the attorney representing the state and the judge before sentencing or before a plea bargain agreement is accepted; and (b) by the Board of Pardons and Paroles before an inmate is released on parole; and
  • Except as provided by Article 56.06 (a), for a victim of a sexual assault, the right to a forensic medical examination if the sexual assault is reported to a law enforcement agency within 96 hours of the assault.
A victim, guardian of a victim, or a close relative of a deceased victim is entitled to the right to be present at all public court proceedings related to the offense, subject to the approval of the judge in the case. The office of the attorney representing the state and the sheriff, police and other law enforcement agencies shall ensure to the extent practicable that a victim, guardian of a victim, or a close relative of a deceased victim is afforded the rights granted by Subsection (a) of this article and, on request an explanation of those rights.
 
A judge, attorney for the state, peace officer, or law enforcement agency is not liable for a failure or inability to provide a right enumerated in this article. The failure or inability of any person to provide a right or service enumerated in this article may not be used by a defendant in a criminal case as a ground for appeal, a ground to set aside the conviction or sentence, or a ground in a habeas corpus petition. A victim, guardian of a victim, or a close relative of a deceased victim does not have standing to participate as a party in a criminal proceeding or to contest the disposition of any charge.

                                                                                                                             

What is the victim's rights to speak after punishment?
 
Victim's Right to Speak After Punishment Article 42.03 (1) (b), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, provides victims of violent crime (or the close relative of a deceased victim, or the guardian of a victim) the right to speak in court after punishment has been assessed. The victim's remarks are limited to the victim's views about the offense, the defendant and the effect of the offense on the victim. Although the victim may address both the court and the defendant, the victim may not ask any questions of the defendant. The court reporter may not transcribe the victim's statement, and the statement may not be made until after the sentence has been pronounced. For those victims who would like some assistance in preparing their oral statement, we have developed a guideline to help them organize their thoughts. Guide for Preparation of Victim's Statement to be presented to Court after Sentence has been pronounced. Your remarks are limited to your thoughts about the crime, the defendant and the effect of the crime on you or the victim's family. You may direct your comments to the court (Judge) and the defendant. You may not ask the defendant any questions. The court reporter may not record your statement. We suggest that you take some time before the sentencing to organize your thoughts. It has been more effective to write down your thoughts than to speak without preparation. Many victims are emotional at the time of sentencing and having an outline of your thoughts can be very helpful.
 
Date of sentencing:_____________ Court Number:______ Suggested Outline:
  • The Crime
  • The Defendant
  • The effect of the crime on the victim or the victim's family
What is a protective order and how can the District Attorney's Office help me obtain one?
  • A protective order is a lawsuit that is filed in the county court at law.
  • A protective order can tell the Respondent to stay away from your home, workplace, and your children's school/daycare. It can tell the Respondent not to harass, stalk, or threaten you. If the Respondent does these things in violation of the order, the Respondent can be charged with a criminal offense and arrested.
  • Generally, once granted, a protective order is valid for two years.
  • You can apply for a protective order through the District Attorney's Office, or if you have already filed for a divorce, you can ask your attorney to file one on your behalf.
  • After our office approves the filing of the order, the application is filed in the county court at law.
  • You will receive notification about your court date, from our victim advocate.
  • There are several things that must be proved or happen to obtain a protective order:
    • The District Attorney's Office must have jurisdiction. That means that either you or the Respondent (abuser) lives in Walker County. Note: It does not count if one of you only works but does not live in Walker County.
    • You must have had a dating, family, or household relationship with the Respondent. That includes current spouses, former spouses, blood relatives, people related by marriage, household members, or people who dated.
    • We have to be able to personally serve (give notice) to the Respondent about the protective order hearing. This is why we must have an address to serve the Respondent. The Respondent can be served at home, at work, at a probation or parole appointment, or during a court date.
    • We must be able to prove that family violence occurred. Family violence means that you were assaulted (includes hitting, kicking, punching, hair pulling, slapping, punching, strangulation, shooting, stabbing, forcing to have sex, etc) and/or that you were threatened with bodily injury (the Respondent said they would kill you, hit you, pointed a gun at you, etc).
    • We have to show that family violence is likely to continue in the future. This means that based on the Respondent's past behavior, we think that he won't stop threatening or hurting you.
    • A divorce cannot be pending. That means that no divorce is actually filed. If you have already filed a divorce, you can ask your attorney to file a protective order for you.

Contact Information

If you have any questions regarding this service, please contact Beth Malak.