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The Victim Services Division of the Harris County District Attorney's Office was established in 1977 to provide information, assistance, and support to victims of crime in Harris County. Victim assistance 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.
Coordinators also provide 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. Therefore the coordinators assigned to this division are 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.
What services does the Victim Services Division provide?
- Initial Contact: Contact victims by mail as soon as the case is accepted for prosecution.
- Case Status: Provide on-going, up-dated case status information.
- Criminal Justice System Information: Explain court procedures and schedules.
- Crime Victim Compensation Fund: Provide information and assist victims of violent crime in filing applications for benefits.
- Victim Impact Statements: Provide information and assist victims of violent crime in completing a Victim Impact Statement.
- Referrals: Direct victims to community resources and social services.
- Restitution: Collect information on victims' property loss and forward to prosecutors; serve as a conduit for the payment of lump sum restitution to crime victims.
- Court Accompaniment: Accompany victims to court upon their or the prosecutor's request.
- Testing For Sexual Assault Defendants: Coordinate AIDS and other Sexual Transmitted Disease testing for defendants indicted or who waives indictment for Sexual Assault, Aggravated Sexual Assault and Indecency with a Child by contact.
- Mandatory Testing: Coordinate AIDS and other Sexual Transmitted Disease testing requests from first responders.
- U Visa Certification Request: Handle requests for I-918, Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification.
- Transportation Assistance: Provide bus passes to assist in transportation to court.
- Anatomical Dolls and Drawings: Provide dolls and drawings to assist prosecutors in the interview and testimony in child abuse cases.
- Court Orientation Coloring Books: Provide coloring books and crayons for children preparing to testify in court.
Crime Victims' Rights 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.
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For Additional Victim Resources in Our Community, Visit Our Victim Resources Page