Defendants have the right to be silent...
Victims have the right to be heard...
We at the Victim Assistance Program are sorry to learn that you are a victim of a crime. We want you to know that you are not alone - there is help available.
We are a prosecutor-based victim assistance program. Our primary responsibility is to provide information, support and advocacy services to victims of violent crime, and your family members. We work with the prosecutors and law enforcement and act as a liaison between all involved. This information has been prepared to help you understand your rights as a crime victim and the help available to you.
Under Montana law you have a number of rights if you are a victim of a felony or misdemeanor offense involving actual, threatened or potential bodily injury, or if you are a relative of a child victim or homicide victim. Examples of types of crime include partner and family member assault, stalking, child sexual abuse, robbery, kidnapping, homicide, assault, criminal endangerment, elder abuse and intimidation.
These rights include:
Your right to information. When a crime is reported, law enforcement will give you a notice of rights, an informational flyer on local victim services and a booklet entitled, "The Criminal Justice System and You". This information includes the name and telephone number of the investigating officer and the prosecutor.
Your right to prompt advance notification. You can be notified of the arrest and release of the accused, the crime with which the accused has been charged, proceedings in the prosecution of the case, the function of a presentence report, the date and time of a sentencing hearing and information from the Department of Corrections about the convicted person's incarceration.
Your right to confidentiality. If you request it, your address, telephone number or place of employment (as well as your identity if you are the victim of a sexual offense) may not be given to anyone except a criminal justice agency unless disclosure is the address of the crime scene, is required by law, necessary for law enforcement purposes or ordered by a district court.
Your right to be heard. You have the right to be consulted regarding dismissal of the case, release of the defendant, plea negotiations and pretrial diversion. You have the right to give a statement regarding the impact of the crime at the sentencing hearing.
Your right to receive restitution. Once convicted, the law requires the judge to order the defendant to pay full restitution, so long as the defendant has the ability to pay. Restitution includes stolen or damaged property costs, medical expenses, counseling, loss of income, funeral and burial costs, and expenses reasonably incurred in attending court proceedings and in obtaining ordinary or necessary services that you, the victim, would have performed if not injured.
With these rights come certain responsibilities. It is important that you cooperate fully with law enforcement and prosecution. Please keep the Victim Assistance Program apprised of your current address and phone number. Call 582-2075 or 582-2076 regularly to check on your case.
How the Victim Assistance Program Can Help
Being a victim of a crime can be a frightening experience. You may be suffering physical injury, financial loss and emotional harm. You may be angry or afraid and feel like your world has been turned upside down. You may experience difficulty relating to friends or family or feel you can't trust anyone. Others (or even you) may mistakenly think you are to blame for the crime. All of these are normal reactions of crime victims - you are not going crazy!
Most people do not understand the criminal justice system. It is confusing and complex. Unlike television, cases are not resolved in an hour. In fact, your case may take months before it evens comes to trial. You do not need to face this alone - a professional victim advocate is available to help you from shortly after the crime is committed until its resolution - no matter how long it takes.
A victim advocate can help you in many ways:
~ Provide crisis counseling, emotional support and guidance
~ Help you develop a safety plan for your protection
~ Explain to you how the court system works
~ Give you specific information about your case including dates and times of hearings
~ Refer you to community services (therapist, child care, medical, emergency financial, etc.)
~ Assist you in filing for Crime Victim Compensation to cover medical, counseling, wage loss or funeral expenses
~ Attend court proceedings with/for you
~ Provide you with a secure waiting area if you need to testify
~ Assist you with victim impact statements at sentencing hearings
~ Notify you of parole hearings, appeals and other post-conviction relief
If you have a disability, are a child or elderly, or speak a different language we will make every attempt to meet your special needs. Please let us know so we can assist you more effectively. We do not discriminate on the basis of age, gender, disability, race, national origin, religious belief or sexual orientation. There is no charge for our services.
As a victim of a violent crime, you are not alone. Each year our program helps over 650 victims in Gallatin County. The criminal justice system is confusing and complex. At times it seems like the offenders have all the rights. We are working hard to balance the scales of justice and make sure your voice is heard. We advocate for victims on the local, state and national levels. If there are laws you think should be changed, or improvements you recommend, please talk to us about it.