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Information for Victims of Crime

For many persons, being a victim or witness to a crime is their first experience with the criminal and juvenile justice systems. As a victim or witness, you have certain rights pursuant to Florida Statutes, Section 960.001. This brochure is being provided to you to assist you with questions you may have regarding those rights.

A victim is defined as a person who suffers direct or threatened physical, psychological, or financial harm as a result of the commission or attempted commission of a crime or delinquent act or against whom the crime or delinquent act is committed. The term "victim" includes the victim’s lawful representative, the parent or guardian of a minor, or the next of kin of a homicide victim, except upon a showing that the interest of such individual would be in actual or potential conflict with the interests of the victim. The term "victim" does not include the accused. The terms "crime" and "criminal" include delinquent acts and conduct.

A witness is a person who, as determined by law enforcement, has information or evidence relevant to a specific crime. A witness can testify under oath in a trial.


Criminal Justice Process

The stages of the criminal justice system are as follows:

  • Crime Committed - A crime is an unlawful act made punishable through violations of federal, state and local laws. After a crime is reported to law enforcement, an investigation will be conducted. If law enforcement is able to collect enough evidence, an arrest may be made.
  • Arrest - An arrest is defined as an exercise of the power to deprive a person of his or her liberty. Subsequent to an arrest, suspect(s) are taken to jail, fingerprinted and photographed. Some are immediately released or have to post a bond to ensure they will show up in court.
  • Intake - A victim reports a crime to the local State Attorney's Office. If probable cause is found, the State Attorney's Office may choose to file charges and summon the suspect into court.
  • First Appearance - First appearance occurs within 24 hours of an arrest. Each suspect held in jail must appear before a judge who establishes whether charges are reasonable. The judge will also consider whether a bond should be set and if so how much. The judge will also consider conditions of release and appoint a defense attorney if the suspect cannot afford one.
  • Filing of Formal Charges - The State Attorney's Office may file formal charges after reviewing law enforcement arrest reports, and within 21 days in certain circumstances.
  • Arraignment - The accused is formally charged and enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest The initial step in a criminal prosecution when the defendant is brought before the court to hear the charges against him/ her and to enter a plea of either not guilty, guilty or no contest.
  • Trial Preparations - The prosecutor and defense attorney interview witnesses and exchange evidence in preparation for trial.
  • Trial - At a trial, the prosecutor presents evidence to either the judge or a jury about the case. It is up to the defendant’s counsel to rebut such evidence with a variety of defenses. The defendant may be found guilty or not guilty by a trier of fact of either a judge or jury. The process ends if the defendant is found not guilty.
  • Avoiding Trial - If a Defendant chooses not to go to trial, he/she can either plead guilty or nolo contendere (no contest). A plea is an accused person’s formal admission in court of having committed the charged offense. A guilty plea ordinarily has the same effect as a guilty verdict after a trial on the merits.
  • Sentencing - If the defendant is found guilty, the judge reviews sentencing guidelines, plea agreements and the facts of the case, among other things, in order to determine the appropriate punishment, which could include incarceration, probation or community control. At the sentencing hearing, the judge formally announces the defendant’s punishment.


Juvenile Justice Process

  • Juvenile - A juvenile is a person under the age of 18 who is arrested and charged with a misdemeanor or non-violent felony. Juveniles may be released immediately into the custody of the parents or legal guardian. Juveniles charged with more serious crimes must go to a pre-detention hearing within 24 hours to set the conditions of release.
  • Intake - The process of determining where a child under the age of 18 will be placed until the case is resolved. There are three forms of detention status: home, non-secure, or secure.
  • Diversion Programs - An alternative to trial where the juvenile is placed in a community-based program such as juvenile arbitration, juvenile alternative services program (JASP), or a treatment plan (Walker plan). If a juvenile successfully completes the diversion program, then the charges are generally dismissed.
  • Formal Charges - The filing of a petition in court by the State Attorney's Office. The charge may be filed in either juvenile court or adult court, depending upon the crime and age of the offender.
  • Arraignment - The accused is formally charged and enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere (no contest).
  • Adjudicatory Hearing - The trial of the juvenile, conducted in front of a judge. The judge will decide whether the juvenile committed the charged offense(s).
  • Dispositional Hearing (Sentencing) - When a juvenile is found to have committed a delinquent act, the court will hold a dispositional hearing to determine which sanctions to impose on the juvenile. The sanctions could range from community-based sanctions like probation and community services up to residential commitment.
  • Juveniles Tried as Adults - Juveniles who commit very serious crimes may be tried as adults. Juveniles who are prosecuted as adults may be sentenced to adult or juvenile sanctions.

You may contact your State Attorney or law enforcement agency for more information regarding the stages of the criminal and juvenile justice process.

Read about your rights in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

    NUMBERS TO CALL FOR HELP

    State Attorney’s Office
    Main Office: 305-547-0100
    Juvenile Division: 305-679-2100
    County Court Division: 305-324-2900
    Criminal Intake Division: 305-547-0250
    Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Unit: 305-349-5830
    Domestic Crimes Unit: 305-547-0140
    Sexual Battery Unit: 305-547-0115
    Children & Special Needs Center: 305-547-0160
    Robbery/Career Criminal Unit: 305-547-0350

    VICTIM INFORMATION TOLL FREE NUMBERS:

    Attorney General Victim Information & Victim’s Compensation
    Information: 800-226-6667
    Florida Council Against Sexual Violence: 888-956-7273
    Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence: 800-500-1119
    Abuse Registry: Child/Elderly/Disabled: 800-962-2873
    Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service: 800-342-8011

    Other Numbers

    Coordinated Victims Assistance Center 305-285-5900
    Safespace North Shelter 305-758-2546
    Safespace South Shelter 305-245-5011
    The Lodge Shelter 305-693-1170
    Homeless Helpline 877-994-4357
    National Human Trafficking Resource Center 888-373-7888
    Jewish Community Services-Switchboard 305-358-4357 (Provides crisis counseling, information, and referral)
    Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN.ORG) 800-656-4673 (Provides crisis counseling, information, and referral)
    Rape Treatment Center 305-585-5185

    If you are, or a child is, a victim of a sexual assault, it is very important that you contact the Roxcy Bolton Rape Treatment Center (Jackson Health System) immediately. They provide medical treatment, pregnancy prevention, disease prevention, and counseling. Trained physicians are available to collect important evidence for your criminal case if needed.

    MIAMI-DADE POLICE DEPARTMENT:

    Police Emergency 911
    Special Victims Bureau, Sexual Crimes Section 305-715-3300
    Special Victims Bureau, Domestic Crime Section 305-418-7200
    Homicide Bureau 305-471-2400
    Robbery Bureau 305-471-2142