Victim Related Questions

  • Q. Since the content of victim statements is confidential, (how) can a defendant respond to accusations made by a victim, which may affect the defendant’s eligibility for RRRI/early parole, etc? (Not covered during webinar.)

    A. RRRI eligibility is determined at sentencing and any information, from the victim or other person, about a history of violence would be available to the defense counsel. The confidentiality provisions, which protect victims of crime, will be balanced by the judge against the constitutional rights of the defendant, such as situations where a defendant's due process rights require that he be able to respond to allegations that would be used to prevent his release, or increase the length of his initial sentence. (Mary McDaniel)

  • Q. Being that the Victim Impact Statements will now be confidential and not be able to be viewed by the defendant, would this be true in the juvenile system? (Not covered during webinar.)

    A. The Prison Package did not address nor change the procedure in juvenile cases. (Mary McDaniel)

  • Q. What do I, as a victim service provider, need to tell victims about these new rights? (Not covered during webinar.)

    A. Victim service providers who are responsible for the provision of victim rights, such as victim witness coordinators within the District Attorney’s office, need to update the victims rights information that they provide to victims, whether that information is provided verbally or in brochures, pamphlets or by letter. COPCVO is currently working with PCCD and OVA on a revised listing of Pennsylvania victim rights which incorporates these new sentencing and post sentencing rights. This sample language is not yet available.

    It is important that victims are informed that they must register to receive most of these rights and must keep their registration information current. How that registration is to occur is a local decision, except when the victim is to register with the Office of the Victim Advocate (OVA). It is also important that victims be informed that in some instances they may have the right to file a petition with the court if they did not receive the input or notification rights under these new provisions of the law.

    For specific information on each of the rights under these new laws, see the document, “Major Provisions Impacting Victims and Victim Services” found on PCCD’s Web site under the Corrections Reform Package section. (Carol Lavery)

  • Q. With regard to Recidivism Risk Reduction Incentive (RRRI), is there notification for the victim, and opportunity to address the court concerning RRRI? How is a victim notified when an offender is eligible for RRRI? (Not covered during webinar.)

    A. RRRI credit is determined by the Court at the time of sentencing. In general, defendants who are eligible for RRRI are not being charged with personal injury crimes or burglary. The Crime Victims Act specifies that victims of personal injury crime and burglary are those who are eligible for notification and services including input. As a result, in the majority of instances, victims of RRRI eligible offenders would not be eligible for notification or victim impact statements.

    For those victims who do submit victim impact statements, they have the opportunity to address the RRRI at that stage.

    Although offenders convicted of personal injury crimes are generally excluded, the District Attorney has the discretion to request a waiver of any eligibility requirement. For instance, a District Attorney may "waive the eligibility requirements" and request that the court sentence an offender to a RRRI sentence even though that offender has a past personal injury crime conviction, or is being sentenced for a personal injury crime. If this occurs, the law requires that the victim of the current offense be notified of the District Attorney’s requested waiver. These crime victims have the right to address the Court on the District Attorney's waiver request. At this hearing, the victim has the opportunity to support or oppose the RRRI waiver request before the judge. The Court must ensure that the victim was provided that opportunity, and after considering input from the victim, may refuse or grant the waiver.

    If an eligible victim is not notified nor provided the opportunity to address the court as per the law, the victim may want to consider filing a petition with the court to request a reconsideration of the court order. (Carol Lavery)

  • Q. Who is responsible to notify the victim when an offender is on Medical Release? (Not covered during webinar.)

    A. During the hearing on a medical release petition, the court is to ensure that any crime victim entitled to notification under the Crime Victims Act has been given notice and opportunity to be heard on the petition that was filed for medical release. Victims entitled to notification would be those who are victims of personal injury crimes, and who have registered to receive post sentencing notification, and who have kept their registration contact information current. If the Court grants medical release to the offender, the victim shall receive a copy of the order.

    The law does not specify who is responsible to do these notifications, only that the court must ensure that the victim is notified. This process will need to be developed at the county level. It could fall to the District Attorney or to the county jail or the court. It is important to note that the name, address and other information for registered victims are confidential, and may not be released to any person other than a law enforcement agency, corrections agency or prosecutor’s office without the prior written consent of the victim according to the Crime Victims Act (11.211). This requirement precludes the information from being provided to other parties, including the inmate and/or his/her attorney for the purposes of notification. If an inmate is placed on medical release without registered victims having been notified and provided their opportunity for input, the victims may want to consider filing a petition with the court to request a reconsideration of the court order.

    If the offender is serving their sentence in a state correctional institution, and the victim is registered with the Office of the Victim Advocate (OVA), the victim will receive notification from OVA, once OVA has been notified of the petition. The victim will be notified if the offender is approved for medical release and subsequently released to a hospital, long-term nursing facility or hospice care facility. (Carol Lavery)

  • Q. If the advocate is working with the District Attorney and knows of violent history, can it be shared with the District Attorney?

    A. That is a good question and it really has a few different aspects of it that need to be addressed. Certainly the District Attorney and the court would be very interested in any violent history of that particular defendant in order to make a recommendation to the court concerning whether or not that person was eligible for these new sentencing aspects. At the same time, depending on where the advocate works, they may be confronted with some confidentiality guidelines that create difficulty in sharing that information. Certainly the advocate, if they are able to get copies of, or access to, the actual sentencing or court records concerning that particular inmate or particular defendant, it would make the process work the way it is supposed to. That is, to share information with the District Attorney particularly through those records. When they are sharing those records, they are not violating any victim confidentiality concerns, guidelines, or laws at that point. (Carol Lavery)