608 – Victim and Witness Assistance Program

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Context

The Texas Legislature has recognized that many innocent persons suffer personal injury or death as a result of criminal acts. Crime victims and persons who intervene in crimes on behalf of peace officers may suffer disabilities, incur financial losses, burdens, or become dependent on public assistance. As a consequence, the legislature has found and determined there is a need for indemnification of victims of crime and of those citizens who suffer personal injury during apprehension of criminals.

Provisions

All persons who are victims of sexual assault, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, or who have suffered bodily injury or death (or their dependents, if death occurs) as a result of the criminal conduct of another shall be notified by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) regarding applicable provisions of the Texas Crime Victims Compensation Act, provided that the crime was reported directly to, and investigated by, the HCSO. The Criminal Investigations Bureau commander shall designate a crime victim liaison officer, who shall bear primary responsibility for ensuring agency-wide compliance with the act.

Definitions

Close Relative of a Deceased Victim: A person who was the spouse of a deceased victim at the time of the victim’s death or who is a parent or adult brother, sister, or child of the deceased victim.

Guardian of a Victim: A person who is the legal guardian of the victim, whether or not the legal relationship between the guardian and victim exists because of the age of the victim or the physical or mental incompetence of the victim.

Victim: A person who is the victim of sexual assault, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, or who has suffered bodily injury or death as a result of the criminal conduct of another or as otherwise defined under Article 8309.1, Section 3 (8).

Procedure

The deputy or investigator who has initial contact with a victim or close relative of a deceased victim shall provide notification of the Crime Victims Compensation Act by presenting to the person a pamphlet describing crime victims’ rights. The pamphlet will also include information on emergency contact and referral telephone numbers for victim services such as: [CALEA Standards 55.2.1 and 55.2.3]

  • Crisis intervention and counseling
  • Medical assistance
  • Shelter services
  • Legal assistance
  • Law enforcement assistance
  • The victim or close relative of the victim will be provided with a case number and notified of the investigation process. [CALEA Standards 55.2.3 c and 55.2.4 b]

The Crime Victims Compensation Act has set forth these basic requirements:

  1. The crime must have occurred in Texas,
  2. The crime must have been reported to law enforcement within 72 hours (this does not apply if the victim was a child under 17 years of age),
  3. An application was filed with the Crime Victims Compensation Division of the Attorney General’s Office within one year of the commission of the crime,
  4. The victim did not bear a share of the responsibility or the crime,
  5. The victim or claimant must cooperate with law enforcement, and
  6. The financial losses are not covered by insurance or other sources.

Texas Crime Victims’ Rights

To be protected from harm or threats:

  1. The deputy or investigator investigating an incident involving all crimes of violence will document the acts within an official report. [CALEA Standard 55.2.2]
  2. Inform the victims or witnesses of available shelters or crisis intervention assistance.
  3. Inform the victims or witnesses to contact the HCSO and / or the Harris County District Attorney’s Office (HCDAO) Victim and Witness Division if the suspects or others threaten or attempt to intimidate them. [CALEA Standard 55.2.3 b]
  4. Inform the HCDAO of injury, continued threats, or endangerment of the victim, and take the suspect in to custody as appropriate.
  5. To be informed about the defendant’s right to bail and to have the victim’s safety considered in the setting of bail.

The deputy or investigator investigating an incident where the victim or witness has been threatened or intimidated shall make notification to the HCDAO of the threats or intimidation for the court’s consideration in making conditions of bail for the defendant.

The deputy or investigator shall inform the victim or witness that he or she will receive automated telephone notification from the HCSO when the defendant is released on bond or other order of the court. [CALEA Standard 55.2.5]

To be informed about court proceedings and to be present at all public proceedings subject to the approval of the judge. [CALEA Standards 55.2.3 d and 55.2.4 b]

The deputy or investigator shall inform the victim or witness to contact the HCDAO Victim and Witness Division regarding additional information on court proceedings.

To be informed about stages in the criminal justice system in general, including criminal investigations, trials, plea bargaining, appeals, and parole. [CALEA Standard 55.2.3 d]

During the course of the investigation of an unusually severe crime, the deputy, investigator, or the crime victim liaison shall contact the victim on a weekly basis to obtain additional information or to provide additional assistance. [CALEA Standard 55.2.4 a]

The deputy or investigator conducting the follow-up investigation shall inform the victims or witnesses of the procedures for necessary interviews, statements, line-ups, and other required appearances and schedule them as conveniently as possible for the victims. [CALEA Standard 55.2.4 c]

The deputy, investigator, or crime victim liaison shall maintain contact with the HCDAO to aid in coordinating assistance for the victims or witnesses and provide them with updates on case progress. [CALEA Standard 55.2.4 e]

To provide information to the Probation Department concerning the impact of the crime for inclusion in the pre-sentence investigation report to the judge and to complete a victim impact statement.

To receive information regarding compensation to crime victims under the Crime Victims Compensation Act, payment for a medical examination for a victim of sexual assault, and referral to available social service agencies that may offer additional assistance.

To be notified, upon request, of any parole proceedings regarding the defendant and of the victim’s right to participate in such proceeding.

To have a waiting area in the courthouse separate from the defendant and his or her family and witnesses, or if a separate area is not possible, to have safeguards to ensure minimal contact.

To have prompt return of property held by law enforcement or the attorney for the state after property is no longer needed as evidence. [CALEA Standard 55.2.4 d]

As permitted by law or upon court order, the deputy or investigator assigned the case, in coordination with the HCSO Property Room, will assist in ensuring the prompt return of all evidential property owned by the victim.

To have the attorney for the state notify the victim’s employer if the victim must be absent from work in order to be in court or to otherwise cooperate in the case.

Notification Procedures

In cases involving a death, the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office shall be responsible for notification of next of kin. However, in exigent circumstances, a deputy or investigator may notify a family member of the victim. [CALEA Standard 55.2.6]

In cases of seriously injured or ill persons, the deputy or investigator shall, whenever possible, make contact with family members and inform them of the appropriate information.

The deputy or investigator making a death, serious injury, or illness notification shall, whenever possible, be accompanied by a uniformed deputy and should be as compassionate as possible when making contact with the family member. The deputy or investigator should consider using the services of the clergy or close friend of the family when making contact.

Training Requirement

The HCSO Academy training coordinator is responsible for ensuring that provisions of the Texas Crime Victims Compensation Act are incorporated into the basic training curriculum for all new deputies.

Revision

This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

April 21, 2009

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