Victim's Rights at the Beginning of a Case
When law enforcement officers contact you at the beginning of their investigation, they should give you written information about your rights. This information will include how to get help with things you might need because of the crime and the court process.
A Victim Advocate is someone whose job is to help crime victims get information and support regarding the crime, and to help victims communicate their views to the court.
You have the right to get these things from a Victim Advocate:
- short-term counseling and support;
- referrals to other places that can help you;
- help getting paid back if you missed work and lost money from your job because of the crime;
- help applying for Victims' Compensation;
- help with paperwork, like filling out forms or figuring out restitution requests;
- help getting protection from the police if anyone tries to keep you from cooperating with the court system;
- help getting your belongings back if they were taken for evidence (as long as it was legal for you to have them in the first place);
- help dealing with law enforcement;
- help getting transportation to court.
If a case is prosecuted, you may be called as a witness in the State's case against the defendant. The crime is considered a crime not just against you, but against the people of Vermont, because it broke the laws of the State. A prosecutor is an attorney who works for the State. State's Attorneys, Deputy State's Attorneys, and Assistant Attorneys General are all prosecutors.
If anyone contacts you about the case - like an investigator, a lawyer, or an expert witness - they need to tell you if they are working for the defendant or for the prosecution. You can talk to them if you want. You do not have to talk to them if you don't want to, or you can tell them you will only talk to them with your lawyer or the prosecutor present.
You may want to have your own attorney to represent your own interests through the court process.