Victim Services

The Victim Services Division provides services to victims in a safe and respectful environment. Staff focus on the rights and needs of crime victims and witnesses. This work is crucial to prosecuting a case and ultimately seeking justice for victims.

Each victim is assigned an advocate. The advocate is there to support the victim and their family as the case moves through the criminal justice process. Advocates provide case updates, explain court procedures, answer questions, make referrals and offer other forms of assistance.

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Crime victim rights

Notification

By law, victims of crime have the right to be notified about their case. Advocates will notify victims of the following:

  • Their rights
  • Prosecution process and the right to participate in it
  • Any plea agreement and allow the victim to provide input or express objections to the agreement
  • Changes in court proceeding schedule when a victim has been subpoenaed or requested to testify
  • Final outcome of the case
  • Appeals filed by the defendant, the right to attend the oral argument or hearing, and the right to be notified of the final outcome
  • Right to request notification of an offender's release or escape from prison or a custodial institution or transfer to a lower security facility
  • Right to request notification of an offender's petition for expungement
  • Right to request restitution
  • Right to apply for reparations
  • Right to petition to civilly commit an offender, outcome of that petition, and to request notice of the offender’s possible discharge/release from civil commitment

Learn more about victim notification, including the VINE notification system.

Protection

You have the right to protection from harm, including:

  • A separate waiting area during court proceedings
  • Request that home and employment address, telephone number, and birth date be withheld in open court
  • Request to law enforcement agency (police or sheriff) to withhold their identity from the public
  • Protection against employer retaliation for victims and witnesses called to testify and for victims of violent crimes and their family members who take reasonable time off to attend court proceedings

Tampering with a witness is a crime and should be reported.

Prosecution

You have the right to participate in prosecution and:

  • Request a speedy trial
  • Provide input in a pretrial diversion decision
  • Object orally or in writing to a plea agreement at the plea presentation hearing
  • Inform the court of the impact of crime orally or in writing at the sentencing hearing by submitting a victim impact statement
  • Inform the court at the sentencing hearing of social and economic impact of crime on persons and businesses in the community by submitting a community impact statement
  • Be present at the sentencing and plea presentation hearings
  • Submit a statement regarding the decision to discharge/release the offender from civil commitment

Financial assistance

Crime victims may apply for financial assistance:

  • Victims of a violent crime may apply for financial assistance (reparations) from the state if they have suffered a loss due to physical or emotional injury or death as a result of the crime
  • Request the court to order the defendant to pay restitution if the defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty

View the complete Crime Victim Bill of Rights.

Victim advocates and the prosecution process

When a case is charged by the Hennepin County Attorney's Office, an advocate is assigned to support them as their case moves through the criminal justice system. Before an advocate is assigned, the case must be investigated and charged.

Crime is reported, police provide blue card

Crime victims should report the incident to the police by calling 911.

The police will provide victims with a blue card that outlines important information:

  • police case number
  • badge number of the investigating officer
  • county attorney contact information, including the Victims Services phone number: 612-348-4003
  • phone numbers for counseling and crisis management agencies

Reporting a case to the police does not mean a case is charged. After the police finish their investigation, they refer the case to prosecutors for review and possible charging.

Victims do not "press charges;" the only person who can charge a case is a prosecutor.

Prosecutors review evidence, make charging decision

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office prosecutes adult felonies and all levels of juvenile crime that occur in Hennepin County. Misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor cases are prosecuted by the City Attorney for the jurisdiction where the crime occurred.

Prosecutors in the criminal divisions review the police file to determine if there is enough evidence to charge a crime.

The office files charges when there is enough evidence that a conviction at trial is likely.

If there is not enough evidence, the prosecutor will either send the case back to law enforcement for more investigation or will not file charges.

If the case is charged, an advocate is assigned and will contact the victim

After the case is charged, a victim advocate is assigned.

A letter explaining the charges and what happens next is sent to the victim. It includes:

  • the charge
  • contact information for the assigned victim advocate
  • restitution forms
  • victims' rights information

The advocate will help the victim as his or her case progresses through the criminal justice system.

Prosecution process

More information on the adult criminal justice process.

More information on the juvenile justice system.

Services for crime victims

What each victim needs is different. Advocates provide whatever assistance, information and referrals are needed for victims and their families after a case is charged.

Case information

The advocate assigned to the case will:

  • Notify the victims of their rights as a victim under the Minnesota Crime Victims Bill of Rights and the advocate who is their contact
  • Notify the victims of hearing dates and times
  • Keep the victims updated on the status of the case from the charging decision through the appeal process
  • Assist victims with filing for financial assistance with the Crime Victims Reparations Board
  • Assist with transportation arrangements for out-of-town victims
  • Aid victims as they participate in the criminal justice process and enable them to exercise their rights as crime victims
  • Assist in preparing a Victim Impact Statement as needed
  • Assist with the return of property

Support and referrals

Advocates provide support and assistance for crime victims, children who have witnessed violence and the surviving family members of homicide victims.

Staff provide referrals to community and social services agencies who can provide counseling, crisis management support, help with safe housing and other assistance to crime victims and their families.

In addition to outside referrals, advocates can assist victims in areas such as safety planning and obtaining gun locks.

Financial assistance

Some financial assistance may be available for crime victims. These funds vary based on the type of crime and other circumstances.

Restitution

Restitution is reimbursement from the defendant to the victim(s) for out-of-pocket losses and expenses directly resulting from a crime.

Learn more about restitution in Hennepin County.

Reparations

Victims of violent crimes may be eligible for financial assistance from the Crime Victims Reparations Board.

Crimes involving an injury or death are covered (property crimes are not included):

  • homicide
  • assault
  • child abuse
  • sexual assault
  • robbery
  • kidnapping
  • domestic abuse
  • stalking
  • criminal vehicular operation and drunk driving

Eligibility criteria:

  • crime must have occurred in Minnesota, or in a foreign country without a compensation program
  • crime must be reported to police within 30 days
  • claim must be filed within 3 years of the crime
  • victim must cooperate fully with police and city or county attorney in the prosecution
  • victim must not have committed a crime or contributed to the incident through their own misconduct
  • all available collateral sources must be used first, including health insurance, Medical Assistance, vacation/sick leave, short and long term disability and social security benefits.

More information, including the Reparations Claim Form in English, Spanish, Somali and Hmong are available online:

Minnesota Crime Victims Reparations Board

Your victim advocate can help you complete these forms.

Interpreter services

Many victims of crime are new arrivals to this country. Spanish speaking victims work with our bilingual advocates and interpreters are regularly used for other languages. Printed materials in languages other than English are available. The courtroom is also part of advocacy and includes TTY for deaf or hard of hearing clients.

Office of Justice resources are available in multiple languages:

Services for witnesses

The cooperation of witnesses is crucial to the criminal justice system. Witness reports and testimony are essential to the successful prosecution of offenders.

Responding to a subpoena

A subpoena is used by the county attorney to notify and summon a witness or victim to testify at a hearing. The subpoena is a court order to appear in court until the case is over or you are excused by the court or a member of the county attorney’s office. Failure to appear as ordered may subject the person to penalties for contempt of court.

If you receive a subpoena, it will give you the name of whom you should call to get additional information about the hearing and when you will be needed. If you need an interpreter, one will be available.

Assistance for witnesses

The advocate or case management assistant listed as the contact person on the subpoena will provide support and information to witnesses who are subpoenaed to testify. They will also coordinate when witnesses should appear for testimony.

Staff can also explain the judicial process and what to expect in court.

Frequently asked questions for victims and witnesses

The defendant is harassing me. Who do I call?

Tampering with a witness is a crime in Minnesota. Report the incident to your local law enforcement agency and to your victim advocate.

Contact the Domestic Abuse Service Center for information on how to obtain an Order for Protection or a Harassment Restraining Order. Call 612-348-5073.

Will there be a plea agreement?

The plea agreement is used frequently in the criminal justice system. However, each case is different. Talk with the prosecutor or your advocate about the case. You will be asked for your input on the contents of any agreement.

What should I do if I receive a subpoena to testify?

A subpoena is a court order to appear in court.

Sign the acknowledgement at the bottom and return it promptly in the enclosed envelope. Call the contact person listed on the subpoena for additional information and instructions.

You cannot ignore a subpoena.

If you receive a subpoena, it will give you the name of whom you should call to get additional information about the hearing and when you will be needed. If you need an interpreter, one will be available.

Who should I talk to about the case?

You may be contacted by various individuals or organizations regarding the crime. You may choose to speak with them if you wish, but you do not have to. This is your choice.

Make sure you identify the person; if needed, ask who they represent. Knowing their interest in the case will help you make an informed decision.

If you choose to discuss the case with anyone other than the police, prosecutor or your victim advocate, it is often helpful to have a friend or family member present.

Does the defendant know who I am or where I live?

Depending on the situation, the defendant may already have this information.

You have the right to request to law enforcement that your identity be withheld when you file the police report or appear on copies of police reports given to the defense attorney.

During the prosecution process, your advocate can request that your address not be given in open court.

Can I drop the charges?

The prosecutor has the responsibility to initially charge the case and makes decisions about the prosecution, including whether or not to drop the charges. Your feelings are important to the office and will be taken into account. However, the prosecutor will make the final decision.

Do these rights still apply when the offender is a juvenile?

Yes.

How will I know when the offender gets out of prison or jail?

To be informed about an offender's release from prison or jail, you must make a special request to be notified.

Contact VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday) about signing up for automatic notification. The VINE system includes the Department of Corrections facilities and most county facilities.

Minnesota VINE
877-664-8463
www.vinelink.com

VINE can also provide other custody information.

Choice is an online information system for offenders who are sentenced to prison or on parole and under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections.

You can search for offender information or request to be notified of an offender's custody status, including release, transfer, escape, apprehension or death.

Choice: www.minnesotachoice.com

I was injured. Who will pay for medical bills or therapy?

The Crime Victims Reparations Board may provide money to cover out-of-pocket expenses as a result of a violent crime.

More information is available under Financial assistance.

The defendant may also be ordered by the judge at sentencing to pay restitution to the victim for their out-of-pocket losses suffered as a direct result of the crime.

Can the defendant be made to pay for damages he or she has caused? What if the defendant has no money?

Often the court will order restitution, which is reimbursement from the offender to the victim for damages directly resulting from the crime. Restitution forms are sent to victims with information about their case.

Detailed information about the restitution process.

When will I get my property back?

Property that is not evidence may be returned. Your advocate can assist you.

Property that is evidence is kept until the criminal justice process for your case is complete. Typically this is until the defendant's sentence is complete or when any appeals or post-conviction issues are resolved. In some circumstances, such as a homicide, evidence is retained forever.

If you have questions or concerns, talk to your advocate.

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