Victim Information & Resources
Being a crime victim is often emotional and overwhelming. The Island County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office employs a full-time victim-witness coordinator to help victims understand their rights throughout the criminal justice process, explain crime victims compensation and victim notification programs, provide referrals to other agencies, relay concerns to the prosecutor and provide support in interviews, hearings and trials.
Contact the Victim-Witness Coordinator at 360-678-7949 or ICProsecutor@islandcountywa.gov
How Did I Get Here?
Frequently our office answers questions from victims about how a case ends up in the courtroom when all they’ve done is report an incident to law enforcement. Here is a brief overview of the “life” of a case from when it is reported to its resolution.
When a crime is reported to law enforcement, officers will conduct an investigation to determine if a crime occurred and if there is probable cause to arrest the suspect. With misdemeanor crimes where probable cause is found, officers will issue a citation to the defendant with a mandatory court appearance. A copy of the citation is also sent to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to prosecute the defendant for the crime. With felony matters, law enforcement will conduct its investigation and then refer the case to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office where a deputy prosecutor will make a charging decision. Misdemeanor cases are handled in District Court while felony cases are handled in Superior Court.
Once charges are filed, the case goes through its respective court system. At the first hearing, the arraignment, the defendant enters a plea. Prosecutors are required to provide all discovery (evidence) to the defense attorney and will typically begin plea negotiations after the arraignment. The case may be resolved by way of the defendant accepting a plea offer or by the case going to trial. A person is convicted if they enter a guilty plea and are sentenced, or if they are found guilty at trial.
While the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office represents the State of Washington and not the crime victim, crime victims have the right to be notified when charges are filed, court appearances are set and the case is resolved. Crime victims also have the right to express to the court how the crime impacted their life, what kind of an outcome they would like and seek restitution for damages caused by the crime.
For a complete list of crime victim rights, see RCW 7.69.030.
Victim Notification Programs
Two programs are available to notify victims when an in-custody offender’s status changes. Status changes may include release, transfer, escape or death.
- The Washington State Department of Corrections Victim Services Program develops collaborative partnerships with victims, victim advocates, criminal justice agencies, community–based organizations and other community members to promote victim and community safety. This includes providing notification services.
- VINELink is a free nationwide network that allows survivors, victims of crime and other concerned citizens to access timely and reliable information about offenders or criminal cases in U.S. jails and prisons. Register to receive automated notifications via email, text or phone call, or check custody status information online at any time. After each notification from VINELink, you must re-register as you will not automatically remain in the program.
- Victims may sign up for one or both programs.
- Do I have to come to court?
Not usually. If there is a trial you may be subpoenaed to testify and would have to appear. Most hearings the victim is not required to appear. However, hearings are open to the public and victims are welcome to come if they would like.
- What if I don’t feel comfortable going to court alone?
There are a few options available to you. First, the Victim-Witness Coordinator is always available to accompany you to any hearings. Second, if you don’t feel comfortable being in the same area as the defendant or their family, the Victim-Witness Coordinator can attend the hearing in your place and report the outcome to you afterward.
- Do I get a say in what happens with the case?
Yes. Although the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office represents the State of Washington and not the victim, it’s common for the prosecutor to ask for a victim’s opinion regarding what they would like to see happen in a case. However, the decision is ultimately up to the prosecutor.
- Who can I call for updates about the case?
The Victim-Witness Coordinator is always available to answer any of your questions or explain processes you may not understand. They are in that position to support you. You may reach the Victim-Witness Coordinator by calling 360-678-7949.