"I am a victim of Domestic Violence, do I need an attorney?"
"I was a witness to a crime, do I need an attorney?"
These are common questions for anyone who was a victim and/or witness to a crime. The Tulare County District Attorney has a pamphlet of information of which I will share in part below, and following that information I will supplement it with more information from a Criminal Defense Attorney's perspective.
VICTIM/WITNESS Assistance Division
The Victim/Witness assistance division of the Office of the Tulare County District Attorney is designed to provided services to victims of crime and to their family members. If you or someone you know have been a victim of a crime, the staff of the Victim/Witness Assistance Division may be able to help you by providing one or more of the services listed below.
Counseling, reassurance and support follwoing the crime
Explaining the criminal justic system including information about individual cases
Accompanying victims to Jevenile and Superior Court
Notifying victims as the case progresses, of case status and final disposition of the case upon request
Providing assitance with return of property used as evidence
Directing victims to commnity resources which can be of further assistance to them
Helping to obtain Court-ordered restitution from convicted offenders
Assisting the victim in submitting the necessary application forms to receive compensation for lost wages, counseling costs and medical bills or funeral/burial expenses.
To be eligible for assistance from the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board, the follwing criterial must apply:
1. The individual is a victim of a crime committed against his or her person (e.g., an assault, rape, molest, physicla abuse, robbery, drunk driving or hit and run with bodily injury or death).
2. The victim must be willing to report the crime to the authorities and to cooperate fuly with law enforcement, the District Attorney, and the courts.
3. The victim cannot have contributed to the crime (e.g., having been involved in committing an illegal act) at the time of the crime.
4. The victim must be a resident of California. California residents who are victims of crime while traveling in another state or county are eligible.
FROM A CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY"S PERSPECTIVE THERE ARE ADDITIONAL FACTS THAT A VICTIM SHOULD BE AWARE OF
Victims of Domestic Violence: Have some specific rights that should be carefully explained to any victim who has reservations about testifying. Many times District Attorneys will tell a victim they must testify, or that they may be charged if they do not testify. Other times a victim may believe the District Attorney will prosecute them if they do not testify, or understand that the D.A. has said that, even if the wording used did not precisely state this.
Sometimes a victim will lie to the police, or stretch the truth, which may expose them to criminal charges if they admit this on the witness stand. This fear causes many victims to stand by untruthful statements, thus perjuring themselves, a crime of its own.
I would recommend that any Domestic Violence victim who has any reservations about testifying consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to explain their rights to them, and help them through the process.
We provided a free consultation with victims of domestic violence to help them decide if they need an attorney that represents their right. District Attorney's represent the the People of the State of California, which is why when a victims states they want the charges dismissed, the District Attorney rarely follows their wishes. A defendant's attorney represents their client, the defendant, who advocates specifically for the defendant. A victim many times will need an advocate that represent their rights exclusively, independent of a State Prosecution, or a defendant.