Victims of Crime Program
The Victims Assistance Program is designed to help people who are crime victims or witnesses in cases through the criminal justice process. Three regular members of the Criminal Division staff, assistant paralegals, are assisted by numerous citizen volunteers provided by the Division's Volunteer Program.
To see how victims and witnesses receive help, a review of how a case moves through the criminal justice system is useful:
- Once a crime is reported the police investigate the matter. If the matter involves the commission of a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor, the police may refer the matter to the Seattle City Attorney's Office. Felony matters are referred to the King County Prosecutor's Office.
- A defendant who is in-custody will be seen on the next available jail calendar in Seattle Municipal Court. An out-of-custody defendant will generally be issued a summons to appear in court on a future date.
- The City Attorney's Office reviews the matter and decides what if any charges should be filed. During this period assistant paralegals and volunteers working with them, may contact victims and witnesses to confirm their statements, their willingness to pursue the case, to obtain information regarding the impact of the offense and any restitution or bail conditions that should be sought. You may also subsequently receive a victim impact statement to be filled out and returned to the City Attorney's Office.
- Once the charges are filed, the defendant is arraigned. At arraignment the charges are read and the defendant pleads guilty or not guilty. In some cases, a No-Contact Order/Anti-Harassment Order prohibits the defendant from contacting the victim/ and witnesses.
- If the defendant pleads not guilty, the court will set a pre-trial date. This is usually a few weeks after arraignment. At the pre-trial hearing, the judge will either accept a plea or set the case for trial.
- The court sets the trial date, and witnesses and victims may be asked to appear and testify. They will receive a subpoena telling them when to appear and may be contacted by someone from the City Attorney's Office and/or the defense attorney's office for an interview before the trial.
- Anyone contacting a victim or witness is obligated to identify themselves and clearly indicate upon whose behalf they are contacting you.
- It is important to appear when and where you are directed to in a subpoena because it is a court order and the case may be dismissed or delayed if you fail to appear.
- Either a judge or a six-member jury will hear the trial. If the defendant is found guilty, sentencing may occur right after a guilty finding, or at a later hearing. At sentencing, restitution can be ordered, or a hearing can determine it at a later time. Even if you are not present the city attorney may present the judge with your victim impact statement if you have submitted one.
- If the defendant fails to appear at any point, a bench warrant may be issued and the next hearing date canceled until the defendant is rearrested. Continuances and other delays may also occur during any case.
- Once a case is disposed of victims receive a written notification of how and when their case was disposed of.
If the defendant is found guilty, or pleads guilty, the court may order restitution as part of the sentence. Restitution can include any out of pocket expenses directly related to the crime such as property damage, medical or counseling expenses and future medical expenses. The defendant may request a hearing to argue against any restitution claims. In order to receive timely payments and updates, please keep the Victims of Crime Program informed of any changes to your address.
The victim impact statement is an opportunity for the victim in a crime to tell the judges, in their own words, what the crime has meant for them and those close to them. If you are the victim and have not received a form in the mail, call the Victims of Crime Program to check that the address we have for you is current, and request a copy of the form. Or you may write the judge a letter outlining how the crime has impacted your life or business.
You can apply for State of Washington Crime Victim Compensation to cover medical, dental, and counseling bills that are a direct result of this crime. Crime Victims Compensation is the agency that determines eligibility and it can be contacted at (800) 762-3716 or reached online.
You can begin a civil law suit. If the damages and pain and suffering are under $4,000 you can file a suit in small claims court. The filing fee is about $40 and the suit will not require an attorney. The phone number for Small Claims Court is (206) 296-3550. To file a suit requesting damages of more than $4,000, you will need an attorney experienced in this kind of case. You can call the Attorney Referral Service at (206) 623-2551 for the names of attorneys near you.