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.
Get Involved - Stay Involved!
Your case cannot be prosecuted unless you get involved and stay involved.
- If you are the victim of a crime nor the owner of damaged, stolen, or misused property, what you know is very important!
- You must appear in court, when required, to prevent the possible dismissal or delay of your case. If you do not appear in court, the defendant may be released.
- Keep the police department and the State Attorney’s Office aware of any changes in your address, telephone number, or any plans to leave the area.
- You may consult with the State Attorney’s Office on felony cases involving physical or emotional injury or trauma to provide your view about the disposition of the case.
Making a Police Report
Several things can happen when you report a crime:
- The suspect may be arrested immediately. If an arrest is made, you will be notified.
- The police officer may need to investigate further and request an arrest warrant from the State Attorney’s Office before an arrest can be made. You can obtain information about your case by contacting the police agency listed in this brochure.
- You may be required to go to the State Attorney’s Office to file a complaint before any further action can be taken.
If an Arrest is Made
The police department may contact you if a photo line-up or interview is needed. In some cases, the defendant may be allowed to post bond and be released immediately. In these instances, you will be notified of a later hearing or conference. In other cases, the defendant may have to appear before a judge within 24 hours. At this initial hearing, the judge will decide the conditions of release or the amount of bond, if any.
The agency scheduling the appearance shall notify each victim, as soon as possible, of any change that will affect the proceedings. Remember, you have a right to appear at these hearings
If no Arrest is Made
Misdemeanors: If the suspect is known, you must go to the State Attorney’s Office to file a complaint before further action can be taken.
Felonies: The police department will conduct an investigation. If possible, you will be advised when an arrest is made.
Stage in the Process
Criminal cases generally follow the sequence listed above. However, no two cases are alike, and variations may occur. After the crime, a police investigation occurs, and possibly an arrest. After an arrest, a bond hearing/jail arraignment usually occurs, followed by other hearings, depositions, trial, and sentencing. Possibly an appeal may occur, and finally, release from a correctional or detention center.
The Victim Access Network (VAN) will send you postcards when these events occur since bond hearings takes place within 24 hours after the arrest, advanced individual notice is not possible. Therefore, if you 12 Information for Victims of Crime are interested in appearing for these hearings, except in misdemeanor domestic violence cases, all bond hearings and jail arraignments are held at:
Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building
1351 NW 12 Street
For only misdemeanor domestic violence cases, bond hearings are heard at:
Lawson E. Thomas Courthouse Center
175 NW 1 Avenue
at 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
On weekends and holidays, all bond hearings are held at the Richard E. Gerstein location. In your case, you can call the State Attorney’s Case Screening Office for particular locations and time of the bond hearings.
Defendant Bond Hearing Information 305-547-0200
Remember, you have the right to appear at these hearings.
What is Victim Access Network (VAN)?
VAN is a computerized postcard information service available to assist victims of crimes committed in Miami-Dade County. The purpose of this service is to notify the victims of all pending court proceedings, except for bond hearings.
NUMBERS TO CALL FOR HELP
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:
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
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