Victim and Witness Rights Act

Section 19.2-11.01 of Code of Virginia

In recognition of the Commonwealth's concern for the victims and witnesses of crime, it is the purpose of this act to ensure that the full impact of crime is brought to the attention of the courts of the Commonwealth, that crime victims and witnesses are treated with dignity, respect and sensitivity; and that their privacy is protected to the extent permissible under law. It is the further purpose of this act to ensure that victims and witnesses are informed of the rights provided to them under the laws of the Commonwealth; that they receive authorized services as appropriate; and that they have the opportunity to be heard by law-enforcement agencies, attorneys for the Commonwealth, corrections agencies and the judiciary at all critical stages of the criminal justice process to the extent permissible under law.

The Martinsville Victim Witness Program provides assistance to victims and witnesses of crimes in the Commonwealth of Virginia in dealing with the results of victimization.

Your role as a victim or witness in the criminal justice system is vital to bringing a case before the court. It is with your cooperation that criminals can be brought to justice. 

Contact Information:

Post Office Box 1063
Martinsville, Virginia 24114-1063
Phone: (276) 403-5467 or (276) 403-5469
Fax: (276) 403-5468

Victim/Witness Program Director:

Vicky Belcher
E-mail: vbelcher@ci.martinsville.va.us

Victim/Witness Program Assistant Director:

Joyce Laine
E-mail: mailto:jlaine@ci.martinsville.va.us

Office location:

55 West Church Street (Municipal Building, Room 14, Commonwealth's Attorney's Office)
Martinsville, VA 24112

 


Services Provided by the Victim/Witness Program:

Notification about your case, including updates and significant developments in the police investigation, court date(s), and the outcome of the trial.

Explanation of steps in the criminal justice process, of court procedures, and of your role as a witness. If possible, a tour of the courtroom can be arranged before you testify.

Escort to court, if needed.

Guidance in obtaining reimbursement for travel expenses related to your court appearance(s).

Interceding with your employer or school to explain your need for time off to testify.

Victim crisis counseling and referral to social service agencies and counseling or support agencies.

Assistance in preparing a Victim Impact Statement that describes the affect the crime has had on your life or that of your family.

Assistance in filing for compensation under the Virginia Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund.

Assistance in obtaining court ordered restitution from the defendant.

Crime prevention information and assistance.

Information about protection from threats by the offender or anyone else who would obstruct your cooperation with law enforcement or interfere with prosecution efforts.

Assistance with the recovery of personal property held as evidence.

Assistance with confidentiality issues. 

 


Brief Explanation of the Criminal Justice Process:

Felony Cases

Subpoena:

A court document requiring you to be present in court at a particular time and place. Failure to appear can result in criminal charges against you. This is your notification of when you must be present in court.

Preliminary Hearing in District Court:

This hearing is held in either the General District Court or the Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court and is typically your first court appearance. The preliminary hearing is not a trial. Its purpose is to determine whether it is reasonable to believe that a crime has been committed and that the defendant has committed the crime. If the judge determines that the evidence is sufficient to establish that the defendant committed a crime, the case is sent to the Grand Jury.

Circuit Court Grand Jury:

A Grand Jury consists of citizens who examine the evidence of the case. If they find enough evidence to charge the defendant with the specific crime, they indict the defendant, and the case is then set for trial in the Circuit Court. Normally the victims and lay witnesses will not have to appear to testify before the grand jury.

Pre-Trial Preparation:

The Commonwealth's Attorney or Assistant Commonwealth's Attorneys is responsible for presenting the case against the defendant on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia. (If you have any questions about the case or any additional information, contact the Commonwealth Attorney or the Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney by calling 403-5470).

Trial in Circuit Court:

A defense attorney represents the defendant. At the beginning of the trial, all witnesses are sworn in and may then be required to remain outside of the courtroom until they testify. You cannot leave until allowed to do so. When you are called to testify, the prosecutor and defense attorney will ask you questions. On rare occasions, the judge may ask you questions. At the trial, the judge or jury will determine whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty, and if found guilty, will then determine the sentence imposed on the defendant. After conviction the defense attorney, prosecutor, or court may ask for a presentence report on the defendant's background. At this time, the victim may wish to file a Victim Impact Statement or present an oral Victim Impact Statement that describes the affect the crime has had on the victim and the victim's family.

Sentencing Hearing:

If the defendant is found guilty, sentencing will normally take place at a later date. In a jury trial the jury fixes a sentence, but the judge has the right to modify the sentence. Crime victims may attend the sentencing hearing.

Misdemeanor Cases

Subpoena:

A court document requiring you to be present in court at a particular time and place. Failure to appear can result in criminal charges against you. This is your notification of when you must be present in court.

Trial in District Court:

Trial in District Court is similar to trial in Circuit Court except there is no jury. Normally in General District Court, sentencing occurs immediately after conviction. In Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, sentencing of a juvenile will probably occur only after a presentence report has been prepared. The victim has the right to be present in court for sentencing.


Victim/Witness Responsibilities

As a victim or witness, it is necessary to keep the Victim/Witness Program informed of your current address and telephone number so that we can contact you about your case and make sure subpoenas can be served to notify you of court dates.  Report any changes to address or phone number to the Clerk of Court and the Victim Witness Program.  This also helps ensure that you receive court ordered restitution.


Tips on Testifying

  • Always tell the truth.
  • Do not be afraid to say, "I do not know" if you do not know the answer.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for the question to be repeated.
  • Only answer the question asked.
  • Speak loudly and clearly.
  • Do not become angry or argumentative. Keep calm, and be polite and courteous.
  • Dress appropriately for this occasion, i.e., tank tops and shorts are not appropriate.
  • Cell phones should be turned off.
  • Do not chew gum, eat or drink in the courtroom.
  • Listen carefully to and obey anything the judge tells you to do.
  • Bring your notes, photographs, medical bills or receipts for repairs to property.
  • Be prepared to wait. The court tries to limit the time you must wait; however, sometimes there are several cases to be tried on the same day.
  • It is best to arrive at least 10-15 minutes prior to your scheduled court appearance.

 


Important Phone Numbers

 


Confidentiality Policy

All client information obtained while employed as a staff member, intern, or volunteer of the Martinsville Victim/Witness Program will be held in the strictest of confidence from any outside person or agency.

Any information pertinent to any criminal case investigation or prosecution-past, present and future-may be discussed with the Martinsville Commonwealth's Attorney's Office and client information pertinent to any criminal investigations or prosecutions may be disseminated to agencies responsible for that cause.

When preparing reports, responding to surveys or requests from the media, or providing educational presentation, only non-identifying information will be disseminated.

All records containing confidential information will be maintained securely and shall be accessible only to representatives of the Martinsville Victim/Witness Program or their representatives.

The only exceptions to confidentiality include:

  • Client requests in writing that the program release information;
  • Client makes a report of child or elder abuse;
  • Client threatens to hurt self and/or others; and
  • Court order or law order requires disclosure.

Links of Interest for Victims & Witnesses