Berrien County Trial Court Victim Assistance
To you, the victim of a crime, court proceedings may seem impersonal and confusing. It is our goal to make you feel more comfortable with the criminal justice procedures and allow us to effectively work together.
Our services include:
- Providing information and help in filing for Michigan Crime Victim Compensation.
- Making referral to other community agencies for additional help.
- Giving information on how the court works and case status.
- Accompanying a victim to court, upon their request.
- Providing information and assistance in obtaining restitution.
- Informing the community about victim's rights.
- Crisis intervention.
If you are intimidated or threatened by the defendant, CONTACT THE POLICE IMMEDIATELY. If you are in need of further assistance, contact the Victim Assistance Program at (269) 982-8640
CRIME VICTIMS RIGHTS
Under the Crime Victims Rights Act of 1985, you have the right to:
- Be present during the entire trial unless you are to be called as a witness.
- Be free from threats or acts of discharge from your employer because you are subpoenaed or requested by the Court to testify in court.
- Be provided with a waiting area separate from the defendant.
- Consult with the Prosecuting Attorney to give your views about the disposition of this crime.
- Receive the name of a person to contact regarding information about your case.
- Receive notice of any scheduled court proceeding.
- Confer with the Prosecuting Attorney prior to the selection of the jury and trial.
- Receive written notice of the defendant's conviction.
- Have your written impact statement included in the pre-sentence report.
- Make an oral impact statement at the time of sentencing.
- Be notified of the time and place of sentencing.
POST SENTENCE RIGHTS
Victims are entitled to additional rights following conviction if the defendant is sentenced to prison or jail, or if the defendant appeals their conviction. Further information will be provided at that time.
Suggestions for testifying:
DRESS NEATLY. It is important that you look good in court.
BE PREPARED. Think about the answers you will give to the questions you probably will be asked.
STICK TO THE FACTS. The Judge wants to hear only the facts as you know them to be, not what someone else has told you.
RELAX, SPEAK CLEARLY. You have nothing to fear when giving true answers. When you are asked questions, give the Judge your answer as clearly and concise as possible.
- One of the basic rules in a criminal case is that both sides have the chance to question the witness. Questions asked by both sides have the same goal: to find out what is true.
- Don't let the defense lawyer upset you. It may seem at times that he is trying to pin you down, but he has the right to test how many facts you know and remember.
- Answer all questions to the point. It is the responsibility of the lawyer to bring out the truth by asking questions.
- If you can answer a question with a single yes or no, do so. Answer only questions asked. Do no volunteer additional information.
- If you don't know the answer to a question, say so. Do not guess or speculate.
- If you don't understand or didn't hear the question, ask that it be explained or repeated.
- If either lawyer raises an objection, stop speaking at once. After the Judge has ruled, you will be asked to go on.
At sentencing, the Judge will consider the information in the pre-sentence report and the victim impact statement. Determination of the sentence is the Judge's sole responsibility. In Circuit Court, the Judge will also consult the sentencing guidelines established by the Michigan Supreme Court as a reference for framing an appropriate sentence. The Judge may consider different alternatives such as a fine, probation, community service, a sentence to jail or prison, or a combination. The Judge may also order the defendant to make restitution to the victim.