Victims/Witness Rights & Responsibilities
Who Is a Victim?
Any person who has suffered physical, emotional or financial harm as a direct result of a felony or certain misdemeanors (including domestic assault and battery, assault and battery, stalking, and sexual battery). This includes:
- Spouses and children of all victims
- Parents and guardians of minor victims
- Parents, spouses, siblings or legal guardians of mentally or physically incapacitated victims
- Parents, spouses, and siblings of victims of homicide
What Are My Rights as a Crime Victim or Witness?
- To be informed of your rights
- To be treated with dignity, respect, and sensitivity
- To receive authorized services and protection of privacy
- To have the opportunity to be heard at all critical stages of the criminal justice process
- To make the courts aware of the full impact of the crime
What Are My Responsibilities?
As a victim of a crime in Virginia, you have certain rights in the five areas under the Victims’ Bill of Rights. However, there are steps you need to take in order to secure your rights:
Victim & Witness Protection
Protective Orders (Family or Household Members)
A protective order is issued by a judge or magistrate to help protect a victim from abuse. These orders prohibit the accused person from some or all contact with you.
Stalking Protective Orders
If you’re the victim of stalking, a judge or magistrate can issue an order prohibiting the person from contact with you.
Separate Waiting Areas
Separate waiting areas for victims and witnesses help provide privacy and protection from intimidation.
Compensation for Witnesses
Victims and witnesses traveling from out of town may be entitled to payment for mileage, tolls, meals, and lodging for each day in court.
To assist in the investigation and prosecution of certain crimes, law enforcement authorities may hold your property as evidence. The law allows them to photograph and return certain evidence to you before the trial. However, law enforcement may hold your property until after the trial and any appeals.
The Court may order a defendant to repay you under certain circumstances, at least partially, for your losses.
If you were physically injured during the crime or you are the surviving spouse, parent, grandparent, sibling, or child of a victim who was killed because of a crime, then you may be compensated for certain unreimbursed losses such as loss of earnings, medical expenses, or funeral expenses. Your Victim/Witness Program staff can explain how to apply and assist you with the application. You may contact the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund directly by calling 800-552-4007.
If you are subpoenaed to court and you give reasonable notice at your workplace, your employer may not fire you, discipline you, or require you to use vacation or sick leave in order to go to court. However, your employer is not required to pay you for your time in court.
Notices of Court Dates
You must give the Commonwealth’s Attorney your name, current address, and telephone number, in writing, if you wish to be notified in advance of the scheduled preliminary hearings, trials, or sentencing hearings.
Status of Release of Defendants or Prisoners
You must give the Sheriff or Department of Corrections (DOC) your name, current address, and telephone number, in writing, if you wish to be notified of a defendant’s release, escape, transfer, legal change of name, or discharge from custody. To be notified of a state prisoner’s status, contact the Victim Services Section of DOC, 800-560-4292. You may be asked to provide additional information, (such as prisoner’s name, date of sentencing, or type of offense).
Appeals to the Virginia Court of Appeals or Habeas Corpus
You must give the Attorney General’s Office your name, current address, and telephone number in writing, to be notified if and when an appeal to the Virginia Court of Appeals is granted or a Habeas Corpus petition has been filed. You may contact the Attorney General’s Office at 804-371-7763 or 800-370-0459.
Right to Remain in Courtroom
You have the right to remain in the courtroom during all court proceedings (bail or bond hearings, preliminary hearings, trials, etc.) which the defendant attends, unless the judge decides otherwise. If a victim is under the age of 18, the court may allow an adult chosen by the victim to remain in the courtroom for support.
Victims have the right to be informed of the contents of any plea agreements and may express their views about such plea agreements to the prosecutor. You must ask for this right in writing.
Victim Impact Statements
In certain cases, after the defendant is found guilty, the judge may consider a written Victim Impact Statement in deciding the offender’s sentence. This statement gives the victim a chance to explain the full impact of the crime(s).
Crime victims who would like to have input into the process for parole eligible prisoners, may do so by contacting the VA Department of Corrections Victim Services Section, 6900 Atmore Drive, Richmond, VA 23225, 800-560-4292.
Closed Circuit Television
To reduce the trauma experienced by child victims when they must testify, Virginia law allows the use of closed-circuit television in certain criminal proceedings. These include preliminary hearings involving alleged offenses against children aged 14 or younger in kidnapping, sexual assault or family cases.
Closed Preliminary Hearing
In cases of sexual assault, preliminary hearings may be closed to the public. Speak to the prosecutor to find out if your preliminary hearing can be closed. However, trials are open to the public.
You have the right to request that courts, police departments, sheriff’s offices, prosecutors, and the Department of Corrections not disclose your home address, telephone number, or place of employment. To request confidentiality, you must file a form “Request for Confidentiality by Crime Victim” (DC-301) with the Court or Commonwealth’s Attorney.
If you cannot speak English or you are hearing impaired, a court-approved interpreter may be appointed to assist you during the criminal justice process at no cost to you.
Call the Arlington Victim/Witness Program in the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney at 703-228-4410 and ask to speak to a Victim Specialist.