If you have been a victim of a crime, your local police department is ready and available to take your report and work with you. It may feel strange to share details of your life with a stranger, but the police officer is here to help you.
- The investigator assigned to take your report is there to get information from you and to begin an investigation. There may be more than one interview done with you, depending on the needs of the investigation but the goal is to minimize the impact of having you repeat your story.
- It is the Investigator’s job to prove probable cause to move forward with the case.
- Even if you feel that you may not have a “strong” case, it is important to report it to have documentation.
- An investigation can take some time as each case is unique. There may be evidence that needs to be collected and interviews that need to be done. You are welcome to contact the investigator to ascertain the status of the investigation.
There are police agencies in the state that have victim service advocates, as well as the Delaware Victims’ Center, which handles victim services for the remaining police agencies that do not have victim services in house.
- Victim service advocates can help access your needs and refer you to appropriate services and resources.
- Victim services advocates provide crisis intervention and can help you through this process.
- They can work as a liaison between you and the investigating officer and help provide information as needed.
- They can help explain the criminal justice process and some civil remedies as well.
The Victims’ Compensation Assistance Program (VCAP) helps alleviate the financial burden and distress that crime leaves behind by awarding financial compensation for losses that victims sustain as a result of a violent crime.
- What types of crimes are covered?
- Child abuse crimes
- Domestic violence crimes
- Sexual assault or sexual abuse
- What makes me eligible?
- The crime must be reported to law enforcement within 72 hours.
- A claim must be filed with VCAP within 1 year of the crime.
- The victim must cooperate with law enforcement agencies.
- The victim must cooperate with VCAP staff and provide all information requested.
- The victim must not have caused or contributed to his/her injury or death.
- What kind of financial help may be available?
- Medical/dental expenses
- Mental Health Treatment or Counseling
- Wage or Income Loss
- Income loss to a custodian while providing care to a child victim.
- Loss of support for victims and dependents in certain situations.
- Funeral and/or burial expenses.
- Moving/relocation expenses
- Temporary housing
- Change of locks, doors or windows to make your residence safe
- Replacing items seized as evidence by police.
- Limits are set on certain types of losses; no award can exceed $25,000 unless victim is totally and permanently disabled, where the limit is $50,000.
- What expenses are not covered by VCAP?
- You cannot be paid for lost, damaged, or stolen property
- Benefits are not available for pain and suffering
- VCAP is the payor of last resort – this means it will not cover financial losses that are covered by other sources, such as insurance.
- Makes sure charges are appropriate for the crime
- Works to successfully prosecute the case
- Works with the Attorney General’s Social Workers
Not all cases prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office has a Social Worker assigned, however, those that do the role of the Social Worker is:
- to work with victim and DAG assigned to case
- to help explain the court and prosecution process
- In some cases, assess what victims and witnesses need and make referrals.
- In some cases, go to court with victims
- The final court in which the case is tried depends on three factors: the type of charges, the relationship between the victim and the offender and the age of the offender.
- Misdemeanor cases will go to the Court of Common Pleas (CCP) or Family Court
- CCP has jurisdiction over misdemeanor offenses generally punishable by a fine and/or a jail term. At trial, the prosecution, or Deputy Attorney General on behalf of the State, will call witnesses and introduce evidence to try to prove that the defendant is guilty of the crime with which he/she is charged
- Family Court has criminal jurisdiction over adults who allegedly commit misdemeanors against children and over adults who allegedly commit misdemeanors against other members of their family. Family Court also has misdemeanor jurisdiction over offenses committed between former spouses, persons cohabitating together holding themselves out as a couple, and persons living separate and apart with a child in common. This includes, but is not limited to, domestic violence, child abuse, criminal non-support and aggravated criminal non-support.
- The Superior Court has exclusive jurisdiction over felonies and drug offenses (except most felonies and drug offenses involving minors and except possession of marijuana cases)
- The process of a case through the system:
- After filing for a warrant in the Justice of the Peace Court (JP Court), a judge will review the information to determine if there is sufficient probable cause to sign a warrant. When a warrant is signed the next step is that the suspect will be arrested but, this may take some time. CREATE AN EMERGENCY SAFETY PLAN FOR YOURSELF. You may contact the police department's victim services unit for help with creating a safety plan.
- Upon arrest the suspect will have the opportunity to make bail. There is no guarantee that the suspect will remain in jail. YOU MUST HAVE A PLAN FOR YOUR SAFETY. You can call the following prisons to see if the suspect is still in custody; Gander Hill Prison 302-429-7759, Baylor Women's Correctional Institution 302-577-3004, Delaware Correctional Center 302-653-9261, Sussex Correctional 302-856-5280.
- There may be preliminary court dates that are held prior to the trial date. You will not be required to attend most of these, but will be told when you need to attend.
- A court date will be scheduled to hear the case. It is important that you show up for trial. It is also important that you let the court know if you change your address or phone number, you can call the appropriate court to change your information. You should also contact the Department of Justice at 800-870-1790 to make an address change. Failure to do so will result in you not being properly notified of the hearing.
- In some domestic violence situations there can be a Protection From Abuse Order (PFA) issued. For information on how to file one call the Victims Advocacy Program in your county at: New Castle Co 255-0420, Kent Co. 739-6552, and Sussex Co. 856-5843. (See Options for Civil Proceedings)
This program is offered by the Delaware Capitol Police department, which oversees the safety at the courts. It is designed to assist those that need to use Delaware Courts for any domestic related issues. For example, a criminal trial as a witness, civil issues such as divorce, child custody or support, protection from abuse orders, or any other domestic issue.
If you (or someone you know) are afraid and have been abused, threatened, harassed or intimidated, this program may be able to help, by providing a safe escort to and from the court.
New Castle County: 302-255-0022
Kent County: 302-735-8073
Sussex County: 302-855-7455
Any person can sign up for VINELink. VINELink is the online version of VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday), the National Victim Notification Network
This service allows crime victims to obtain timely and reliable information about criminal cases and the custody status of offenders 24 hours a day.
VINE can be reached by the Internet by going to http://www.vinelink.com or calling the Toll Free # 1-877-DE8-VINE
- A victim impact statement is a written or oral statement made as part of the judicial legal process, which allows crime victims the opportunity to speak during the sentencing of the convicted person or at subsequent parole hearings.
- The purpose of victim impact statements is to allow crime victims, during the decision-making process on sentencing or parole, to describe to the court or parole board the impact of the crime.
- This is your opportunity to assist the Court when it has to sentence the offender. It is used if the offender pleads guilty or is found guilty by the court. The prosecutor will present your written victim impact statement to the court before the judge or magistrate decides the sentence.
- Generally only one Victim Impact statement is permitted.
- The Victim Impact statement is addressed to court
- Often times, a plea agreement may be reached prior to trial (at case review), or day of trial (in lower courts)
- DOJ will make every effort to discuss with you possible plea agreements and sentencing recommendations
- Will happen immediately if a person pleads guilty or is found guilty at trial, most often in CCP or FC
- In Superior court, if a person pleads guilty or is found guilty at trial, it’s likely a separate sentencing will be scheduled
- PSI (Pre-sentencing investigation) may be ordered to ascertain best sentencing recommendations
- If the defendant appeals or pursues a post-conviction remedy from any court, the Attorney General shall promptly inform any victim of the date, time and place of any hearing and of the decision.
- Restitution is when the Court orders the offender to pay back costs that the victim endured as a result of the crime.
- Restitution can be ordered to VCAP – if VCAP paid on behalf of the victim
- Restitution can be ordered to the victim if there are additional costs that the victim did not have VCAP pay or if VCAP was not involved in the case.
- IMPORTANT: Restitution can only be paid if the offender is found guilty or pleads guilty.
- The Department of Justice will send a questionnaire for the victim to fill out in regards to restitution. It is important that this is completed and sent back so the court knows what is owed.
- Now that case is over, may have a hard time moving forward as focus was on case process
- Resources in the area to help with moving forward
Link to PDF: Guide to Victim Resources in Delaware