The Victim/Witness Unit provides information to victims and witnesses concerning the Lehigh County court system and the progress of their cases through the system. Some of the services provided are:
Case status; court accompaniment; sentencing notification; assistance with restitution and property return; employer/school/creditor intervention; interviews; assistance with preparation and submission of oral or written victim impact statements; assistance with intimidation and harassment; assistance in filing claims with the Victims Compensation Assistance Program; assistance in enrollment in county and state inmate release notification programs; a separate victim/witness waiting room; referrals to other community agencies for help with non-court related issues; support and advocacy; crisis intervention; explanation of the criminal justice system; and preparation for court testimony.
For Victim Witness Services please email the Victim Witness Unit at VictimWitnessUnit@lehighcounty.org or please call the Lehigh County Victim/Witness Coordinator at 610-782-3890.
PENNSYLVANIA’S VICTIM BILL OF RIGHTS
As a crime victim, you have these rights:
- To get basic information about services to help you;
- To be told of important actions and court proceedings in your case. In personal injury crimes, this includes the arrest of a suspect and escape from police custody;
- To have a family member, victim advocate or another person go with you to all public criminal proceedings;
- To tell the District Attorney’s Office what you think about the possibility of reducing or dropping any charge or changing of a plea in cases involving personal injury crimes, burglaries or bodily injury caused by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
- To write a victim impact statement that a judge can consider when sentencing the person who did the crime. To give your opinion before sentencing;
- To recover your losses, to the extent possible. This means you might get restitution, compensation through the Crime Victims Compensation Program and your property back. Property, which was taken as evidence, can be returned when the prosecutor no longer needs it;
- To be told when an offender is being released from a local correctional facility and to be told immediately if an offender escapes (must register for this and other notices about inmates, but assistance with registration can be provided);
- To be told when an offender is being released from a state prison when the case involves a personal injury crime. To comment on a possible release. To be told immediately if an offender escapes;
- To be told when an offender is taken from a state prison and is committed to a mental health facility. To be told when an offender is released, transferred from or escapes from a mental health facility;
- To get help preparing, submitting and following up on financial assistance claims to the Crime Victims Compensation Program.
PA SAVIN (PENNSYLVANIA STATEWIDE AUTOMATED VICTIM INFORMATION NOTIFICATION)
PA SAVIN is a free, confidential notification service about an offender’s release, transfer or escape from a county jail or state prison. For assistance in registering for this service, please call the Lehigh County Victim/Witness Coordinator at 610-782-3890 or call 1-866-972-7284. For more information, visit www.pacrimevictims.state.pa.us.
ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS AND SERVICES
More information for victims is available at www.pccd.state.pa.us, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Website. Information on victims’ compensation for victims of personal injury crimes is available.
The Pennsylvania Office of the Victim Advocate (OVA) can register crime victims in cases where judges have ordered jurisdiction of offenders to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and/or the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. Visit www.ova.state.pa.us or call 1-800-322-4472 for more information. Registration is necessary to get notification of your right in Pennsylvania to provide input about any pre-release and parole review of an offender.
Visit www.cvclv.org, the Website for the Crime Victims Council of the Lehigh Valley, to learn more about its services.
Services to domestic violence victims are available from Turning Point of Lehigh Valley. Visit www.turningpointlv.org or call 610-439-3369.
GUIDELINES FOR PREPARING VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENTS
A Victim Impact Statement is usually the only opportunity crime victims have to address a judge and describe the impact a crime has had on their lives. We hope these guidelines will help you to prepare a statement. Before you write your statement, ask yourself:
- "What was life like before the crime?" This gives the court an opportunity to see what life was like for you on a daily basis and how it has changed. Include work life, family life and social life.
- "How has my life been impacted by this crime? How have the people I love been impacted by this crime?" If you or your family have been physically injured, describe the treatment and its length, the recovery process and any rehabilitation programs. If you live with physical limitations, describe them. Also describe the emotional aftermath of the crime and any financial losses.
- "What kind of punishment would I like to see the offender receive? How long do I want the offender to go to prison?" Include any requests that you would like the judge to consider, for example, ordering the offender to participate in drug and alcohol counseling or other counseling, to have no contact with certain people, such as minors, to pay restitution or to participate in community service.
The Victim Impact Statement can be read to the judge or handed to the judge before sentencing. If you are not comfortable reading the statement, you can ask someone to read it for you. You can write as much or as little as you want. The offender will be present in the courtroom.