Victim-Witness Assistance

The primary goal of the State’s Attorney’s Office Victim Witness Assistance Unit is to make your experience as a State’s witness as understandable and comfortable as possible. This unit is designed to provide assistance and services to victims and witnesses in criminal cases.

The journey through the criminal justice system can be intimidating, frightening and confusing. The terminology is unfamiliar and there can be frustrating delays. Victims also may require assistance in knowing where to seek help with problems that occur either because of the crime or due to their court appearance. Our office provides victims of crime and witnesses for the State with an advocate who is specifically trained and assigned to address their needs.

Our staff consists of a Victim Witness Director, a Victim Advocate assigned to circuit court cases, an advocate assigned to child abuse and sex crimes, an advocate assigned to juvenile court cases and two advocates assigned to district court cases, one of whom is dedicated to domestic violence cases. A secretary is also assigned - in both divisions to provide support services to the director and the victim advocates.

The advocates's role is to explain the process by which a case will be presented to the court and to explain to victims what rights they have. The advocate can facilitate the scheduling of conferences with the prosecutor assigned to handle the case(s), as well as accompany the victims or witnesses to court proceedings.

An important part of the advocate's work is to serve as the contact person for victims and witnesses to provide up to date information about the status of the case and make appropriate referrals to outside agencies and services. Daily contact is maintained with the prosecutors to pursue any questions the victim or witness may have. If you are a victim or witness, you should tell the advocate of any concerns you have about the case. Upon request assistance is provided for restitution issues and property return requests.

One of the most important responsibilities of a victim advocate is to ensure that victims are informed of certain rights. Some of those rights include the:

RIGHT TO BE INFORMED: A victim who has suffered threats of physical, emotional or financial harm as a direct result of a crime or a delinquent act, will be given notification within ten (10) days of the indictment or information filed of the case. The victim will receive notification information along with a Notification Request Form. This form allows a victim to inform us whether they wish to be notified of all court proceedings before they occur. The completion of this form also ensures registration with VINE (Victim Information Notification Everyday), an automated system that notifies victims when an offender is going to be released from custody.

RIGHT TO BE PRESENT: Victims who file the Notification Request Form have the right to attend, if practicable, any proceeding in which the defendant has the right to appear. Victims will be provided a safe place to wait for the hearing and will be escorted to the courtroom when it is time for the case to be presented.

RIGHT TO BE HEARD: Victims are permitted by law to be in court when a defendant is sentenced or when a defendant’s sentence is reviewed. It is at this time victims are given the opportunity to submit a Victim Impact Statement. This statement includes a description of how the crime has affected them physically, emotionally and financially. The statement should be prepared before the hearing and will be submitted to the Court prior to the hearing. A Victim Impact Statement can be given orally or in writing.

The Victim Witness Assistance Unit is there to serve the public, and in particular to do everything possible to meet the needs of victims and witnesses in all criminal cases prosecuted by the State’s Attorney’s Office for Howard County, Maryland.

As mentioned above, there are advocates for the District Court Division, the Circuit Court Division and the Juvenile Division. Each advocate is assigned a case as it is received in the State’s Attorney’s Office. Please read on as each advocate is introduced and a description of their responsibilities are provided.