Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office
County Courthouse, 811 Port Street St. Joseph, MI 49085
Phone: (269) 982-8640
A Letter from your Prosecuting Attorney...
Dear Berrien County Residents,
The purpose of this information is to ensure that you, as a victim, have a complete understanding of your rights. In order for our criminal justice system to work effectively, we need your input, support and cooperation. It is necessary for you to communicate with those officials you have elected. Please take the time to complete your Victim Impact Statement as soon as possible. The Judge and Prosecutor will review your statement to determine how to best handle your case.
As your Prosecuting Attorney, I encourage you to join with our office and the local police agencies in our fight against crime. Our collective effort will make this a safe community for all of us.
Should you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact myself, one of my Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys, or anyone on the Victim Assistance Staff.
Michael J. Sepic
CRIME VICTIM SERVICES
To you, the victim of crime, court proceedings may seem impersonal and confusing. It is out 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 an 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.
The Michigan Crime Victim Compensation Act was begun to give financial help to crime victims who are hurt or lose earnings or support because of the crime. Victim Assistance will be able to help with any questions you might have. Applications may be received from this office.
- You must be a resident of the State of Michigan.
- The crime must have happened in the State of Michigan.
- The crime must be reported to the police within 48 hours and the victim must cooperate with the investigation.
- You must have a $200 out-of-pocket medical expense and/or a loss of two continuous weeks of earnings or support.
- The claim must be filed within 1 year of the crime or within 1 year of the death of the victim.
- In case of death, a claim may be filed by a family member.
- Expenses or losses that are covered by personal insurance or that can be paid by another source will not be covered.
- PROPERTY LOSS IS NOT COVERED.
Suggestions for testifying
TELL THE TRUTH. The single most important item of advice is to tell the truth.
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 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 each 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 the questions asked. Do not volunteer additional information.
- If you don’t know the answer to the questions, 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.
IMPORTANT CRIMINAL JUSTICE TELEPHONE NUMBERS
811 Port Street
St. Joseph, MI 49085
(269) 983-7111, Ext. 8311
South County Building
1205 Front Street
Niles, MI 49120
(269) 684-5274, Ext. 6294
Berrien County Jail
919 Port Street
St. Joseph, MI 49085
(269) 983-7141, Ext. 7231
Department of Corrections
Stevens T. Mason Building
P.O. Box 30003
Lansing, MI 48909