- Are the services offered through the Victims Assistance Program available to ALL victims?
- Why hasn’t the Victim Assistance Program contacted me?
- Will the offender get out of jail once he is arrested?
- As a victim, will I be notified if the defendant is released from incarceration?
- I was the victim of a crime and the perpetrator was arrested. What happens now?
- What is the difference between the Louisiana Victim Notice and Registration Form and Louisiana Automated Victim Notification System (LAVNS)?
- Do I have to hire an attorney?
- Will I have to testify?
- Why did the defendant plead “not guilty” during an arraignment when he/she confessed to the crime?
- How long will it take my case to go to trial?
- Why does my case keep getting continued?
- Should I attend all of the defendant’s court dates?
- What should I expect if the case is set for trial?
- What if I would like for the charge against the defendant to be dropped?
- What should I do if I am contacted by a defense attorney or an investigator for the defendant?
- What should I do if I am afraid the defendant will hurt me if he is released?
- What is a protective order? Do I need one, and if so, how do I get one?
- How long does it take for a defendant’s appeals to be complete?
- How do I find out when a defendant is set for court?
- How do I find out who the prosecutor is on my case?
- I suffered a monetary loss as a result of a crime. Will the criminal justice system help me recover my losses or do I have to go to civil court for that?
- When will I receive restitution?
- What is the difference between restitution and reparations?
Are the services offered through the Victims Assistance Program available to ALL victims?
The services provided by this program are offered to a broad range of victims, as outlined by state law. To qualify for these statutory rights, you or your family members must be a victim of a homicide, felony crime of violence, sexual offense, certain vehicular related offenses, domestic violence, or attempts to commit any of these offenses. For a complete list of the crimes whose victims are covered under this statute, click here.
Why hasn’t the Victim Assistance Program contacted me?
The most likely answer is that your case hasn’t made it to the program yet. Your first point of contact is the law enforcement agency that is conducting the investigation. It typically takes four to six weeks after an arrest is made for the investigating law enforcement agency to turn over the file to the District Attorney’s Office. If your contact information or address changes during this time period please contact the Victim Assistance Coordinator in your parish to update your contact information.
Will the offender get out of jail once he is arrested?
After a perpetrator is arrested, a bond is set within 72 hours. The amount of the bond depends entirely on the judge. That perpetrator can bond out of jail at any time if his/her bond is paid. A defendant might be out of jail shortly after the crime is committed and remain out on bond pending the final disposition of the case. Defendants that cannot pay their bond may have a bond reduction hearing in which the judge has the opportunity to lower their bond.
As a victim, will I be notified if the defendant is released from incarceration?
It is the responsibility of the agency where the defendant is incarcerated to notify the victim upon the defendant’s release from jail. Some agencies have the protocol, referred to as LAVNS, in place to insure that this occurs. LAVNS (Louisiana Victim Notification System) is the best, most effective way to insure that the victim is properly notified of the defendant’s release. Most parishes in Louisiana are currently set up through LAVNS for notification. You can register with LAVNS by phone (1-866-528-6748) or on the internet, any movement with the defendant LAVNS will contact you.
An important right that you have as a victim of crime is the right to be notified of your case status and court proceedings. It is important for you to register for these notifications by completing the Louisiana Victim Notice and Registration Form and calling 1-866-LAVNS-4-U for the Louisiana Automated Victim Notification System. The Louisiana Notice and Registration Form has two purposes: (1) to inform you of your very important victim’s rights and (2) to allow you to sign-up for notification for all critical court proceedings. This form is filed with the court and is kept with your case file. The Louisiana Automated Victim Notification System (LAVNS) is a free, anonymous, automated system that is available to everyone and allows you to be notified if the defendant is released, transferred, or has escaped from a parish correctional facility, or has a change in case status. LAVNS offers information concerning defendant information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling the toll-free number or visiting www.vinelink.com. LAVNS is a service provided by the Office of the Governor and the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement and serves as an excellent back-up to the Louisiana Victim Notice and Registration Form.
I was the victim of a crime and the perpetrator was arrested. What happens now?
After the arrest, the arresting law enforcement agency will forward the results of its investigation to the District Attorney’s Office. The prosecutor will determine what charge(s) should be filed and a court date will be set for the offender. For more information about the steps in prosecuting a criminal case see our Flow Chart of Criminal Proceedings.
Do I have to hire an attorney?
No, in criminal matters you as a victim of a violent crime are represented by the state of Louisiana. In other words, an Assistant District Attorney will be assigned to prosecute your case in criminal court. You may hire an attorney if you have a civil case.
Will I have to testify?
Victims often have a great fear of having to appear in a public court room and tell their story. A victim may have to testify at a Grand Jury hearing, a pretrial hearing, and a trial. The Victim Assistance Coordinator and the Assistant District Attorney will take a number of steps to alleviate this fear and make the experience less traumatic. After testifying, most victims feel stronger, and a sense of relief, since they were able to face their perpetrator.
Why did the defendant plead “not guilty” during an arraignment when he/she confessed to the crime?
Even though a defendant has confessed, he/she has a constitutional right to a trial. Often defendants are advised to enter a plea of “not guilty” at the arraignment so that their attorney will have an opportunity to develop their case by filing motions and reviewing the discovery.
How long will it take my case to go to trial?
The average length of time it takes for a case to go to trail varies. The more serious (murder, rape, etc.) cases take longer, averaging from 2 to 3 years. The average time for misdemeanor cases is about 6 months.
Why does my case keep getting continued?
Many victims become annoyed because of continuations. Judges grant continuances for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, a continuation cannot be anticipated and a victim may wait all day in the courtroom to find out that their case will be continued. Continuances are frustrating, but very common in the criminal process.
Should I attend all of the defendant’s court dates?
You should discuss with your Victim Assistance Coordinator or your assigned prosecutor whether it is necessary for you to come to any specific court setting. Many court dates are set merely for procedural matters to be handled and do not require testimony nor involve resolution of the case. If your presence is necessary you will be subpoenaed in person or contacted by the District Attorney’s Office.
What should I expect if the case is set for trial?
If the case is set for trial, the victim will ordinarily receive a telephone call from the District Attorney’s Office and/or a subpoena. The subpoena is a court order requiring you (or the person named on it) to be in court at a specific date and time. If a case is set for trial, one of four things can generally be expected to happen. The trial could take place on the date it is set. Alternatively, the case could be carried for several days. This means that the case is being reset from day to day. A case is carried over if it appears that the court will not be able to attend to the case immediately, but expects to be able to get to it within that jury trial week. Another thing that could happen on trial date is that the case could be re-set. If the case is re-set, then it will be assigned a new trial date at a specific time in the future. All of the witnesses, including the victim, may expect to get new subpoenas. Many cases have several trial date settings before they actually go to trial or get resolved. Finally, the case may plead on the trial date, meaning that the defendant has changed his mind about contesting guilt, or that a plea agreement has been reached that the defendant will accept.
What if I would like for the charge against the defendant to be dropped?
Only the victim of a crime may request the Office of the District Attorney to drop charges against (or decline the prosecution of) a defendant.
If you are a victim who wishes to make a formal drop charge request:
- You will need to appear in person at the Office of the District Attorney in the parish the offense occurred.
- You will need to present a state issued form of identification.
- You will need to meet with a representative of the Office of the District Attorney.
- You will need to document your request on a “Drop Charge Affidavit” explaining why you wish the Office of the District Attorney to decline prosecution.
- You will need to provide a $100 user service fee in money order or credit card payment at the time of your affidavit.
Your affidavit will then be forwarded to the prosecutor handling your case and will be filed with your case record. The prosecutor will consider your request along with other factors including the severity of the crime, the likelihood the defendant will re-offend, the threat posed to the community by the defendant’s actions, and the strength of your case. THE SUBMISSION OF A DROP CHARGE AFFIDAVIT DOES NOT REQUIRE THE PROSECUTOR TO HONOR YOUR REQUEST. The decision to prosecute or not rests with the Office of the District Attorney. Your request, while important, is only one of many factors our office considers in proceeding with a criminal prosecution.
NOTE: Any payments made to the District Attorney’s Office, including drop charges, must be made in the form of a money order or credit card payment. Our office cannot accept cash or personal checks.
What should I do if I am contacted by a defense attorney or an investigator for the defendant?
It is entirely up to you whether or not you speak with them. The prosecution cannot tell you not to speak with the defense; however, you are perfectly free to decline to converse with them at all. You also have the right to have a representative from the District Attorney’s Office present if you do speak with the defense.
What should I do if I am afraid the defendant will hurt me if he is released?
If you have an indication that a crime against you is imminent, you should call the police. You can register with the Louisiana Automated Victim Notification System (LAVNS) by calling 1-866-528-6748 or online at www.vinelink.com. If you register with the LAVNS system, you will be notified about the defendant’s release from jail. You should also seek a protective order.
What is a protective order? Do I need one, and if so, how do I get one?
A protective order is an order entered by a judge in a domestic court that requires a perpetrator to refrain from contacting the complainant and to refrain from being within a certain distance from that complainant’s place of work, school or home. If the perpetrator does any of the actions listed in the order or goes into any of the places listed, he may be arrested for violation of the protective order. For more information on protective orders, contact the Clerk of Court in your parish or the NWLA Family Justice Center.
Bossier Parish Clerk of Court
204 Burt Blvd., 3rd Floor
Benton, LA 71006
Phone: (318) 965-2336
Webster Parish Clerk of Court
410 Main Street
Minden, LA 71055
Phone: (318) 371-0366
How long does it take for a defendant’s appeals to be complete?
There is really no way to tell how long it will take for a defendant’s appeals to be exhausted. It could take as little as one year or it could take many years, depending on the type of case. If you are registered with the Department of Corrections Victim Services Bureau, you will be notified of a successful appeal.
How do I find out when a defendant is set for court?
If you register for notification with the Louisiana Automated Victim Notification System (LAVNS), you will be notified each time a court date is set for the defendant. You may also contact the District Attorney’s Office or your Victim Assistance Coordinator.
How do I find out who the prosecutor is on my case?
You can contact the Victim Assistance Coordinator in your parish for that information.
I suffered a monetary loss as a result of a crime. Will the criminal justice system help me recover my losses incurred as a result of the crime or do I have to go to civil court for that?
The criminal court has the power to order the defendant to make restitution to the victim of the offense. If the crime is a property crime, the court may order the defendant to repay the owner for the monetary value of the loss. For crimes involving bodily injury, the court may order payment for medical expenses. The criminal court has no power to order payment for pain and suffering or the other types of recovery that may be available in civil court. If you wish to make a request for restitution you may download and submit this form to the Victim Assistance Coordinator in your parish. The Crime Victims Reparations Fund may also help to provide compensation to victims of certain types of crimes against the person. For more information on this program, contact the Crime Victim Reparations Claim Investigator in your parish.
Tel: (318) 965-3500
Dy. Felecia Brown
Tel: (318) 371-4021
When will I receive restitution?
Normally, restitution is not received until the defendant either pleads guilty or is found guilty and the defendant is sentenced. However, very rarely is the total amount of restitution owed to the victim ever paid in one lump sum. If the defendant is placed on probation, the Judge may order restitution as a condition of probation. Payments ordered as a condition of probation may come in periodic payments, and will only continue as long as the defendant can make the payment. Judges are hesitant to revoke defendants for non-payment of restitution because once they are sent to jail restitution stops. If a defendant is sent to jail and no probation is ordered a victim is unlikely to receive restitution. Very rarely do we receive restitution prior to conviction. Even with all these efforts, some victims never receive restitution.
What is the difference between restitution and reparations?
Restitution and reparations are available to victims of crime who are in need of financial assistance due to a crime that has occurred. Restitution refers to the actual cost of loss caused by the defendant. If you have suffered financial loss as a result of the crime, the court may order the defendant to repay you as part of the sentence. Crime victims reparations are funds available to innocent victims of violent crime who meet the criteria to receive funds for certain out-of-pocket expenses. Even though the victim may be an innocent victim in this incident, they cannot have been convicted of a felony or have been on probation or parole within the past five years. Qualified recipients must apply for crime victims reparations and must be approved by the Crime Victims Reparations Board before any financial assistance is provided