If you are a victim of a crime and are in need of assistance, please contact the Victim Advocate in the county where your case is pending:
Bay County: Lisa Lea Humpich, Cynthia Williams, Denise Lash or Rhonda Limmer, 850-872-4473
Calhoun County: Addie Little, 850-674-4580
Gulf County: Addie Little, 850-229-6131
Holmes County: Nancy Williams, 850-547-2262
Jackson County: Lisa Williams, 850-482-9555
Washington County: Nancy Williams, 850-547-2262
Americans with Disabilities Act
In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, any victim or witness needing a special accommodation to participate in any court proceeding should contact the ADA Coordinator as follows:
PO. Box 1089
Panama City, FL 32402
Phone: 850-747-5338 Fax: 850 747-5717
Hearing Impaired: Dial 711
For more information on the Americans with Disabilities Act, click here.
VICTIMS & WITNESSES
The key to a successful prosecution often lies with cooperation from the victims and witnesses. As a victim of a crime you may be called upon to play a significant role in making our American system of justice work. Without your participation, a satisfactory disposition of the case will, in most cases, be impossible. Our government provides constitutional safeguards for the accused. That person is entitled to legal representation, to be confronted by his accuser and to have his guilt proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The Victims’ Rights Amendment of the Florida Constitution provides certain rights to the victim. We are committed to ensuring those rights are honored and to assisting you in fulfilling your obligations throughout the process.
The State Attorney has several resources available to help victims and witnesses navigate the criminal court system. Quite often victims and witnesses have questions about how the system works and what to expect. Our victim advocates are among the several resources that can provide you with information, support and direction throughout the judicial process.
Rights of a Crime Victim
The Florida Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights states that victims of crime or their lawful representatives, including next of kin of homicide victims, are entitled to the right to be informed, to be present, and to be heard when relevant, at all crucial stages of criminal proceedings. These rights cannot interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused and include:
- Advance notice of all court proceedings, if time permits
- Information on steps concerning freedom from intimidation
- Notification of scheduling changes
- Opportunity to have a victim advocate present during depositions
- Prompt notification of the results of court proceedings
- To be informed, present and heard, when relevant, at all criminal proceedings
- Assistance in obtaining Crime Victim Compensation, restitution and other service to which you may be entitled
- Opportunity to submit an oral or written impact statement at the time of sentencing
Crime Victim Compensation
If you were physically or psychologically injured as a result of a crime, Crime Victim Compensation may be able to help with medical bills, mental health counseling, lost wages, disability, burial or other expenses that were incurred because of the crime (exceptions may apply). Reimbursement for property loss is for elderly or disabled adults only. Each application is reviewed by the Office of the Attorney General on an individual basis to determine eligibility. There is no guarantee that you will receive payment. This program is administered by the Office of the Attorney General. Applications and assistance in applying for benefits are also available through a Fourteenth Circuit State Attorney Victim Advocate.
Overview of the Court Process
The decision to arrest a defendant is up to the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred. After our office receives a report from law enforcement, an Assistant State Attorney will review all evidence and determine if criminal charges can be filed in the case. Such charges will be filed in the form of a legal document called an “information.”
If the decision to file charges is made, the defendant appears at a hearing before a judge, who advises him of his rights and the charges against him. If the defendant cannot afford to hire an attorney, the judge may appoint an attorney to represent him. The defendant, at this stage, may plead “guilty”; if he pleads “not guilty”, the case will proceed to the next stage. Unless otherwise informed, victims are not required to attend this hearing.
This is a court-ordered legal document requiring a person to appear and testify about the facts of a case. If you fail to appear in court in response to the subpoena, you risk being held in contempt of court.
At this proceeding, a defendant’s attorney takes sworn testimony from witnesses. Everything said during a deposition is recorded. Testimony from the deposition can be compared to the testimony given at trial. The attorney for the defendant and the Assistant State Attorney will be present at the deposition. The victim is entitled to have a Victim Advocate be present at the deposition. Please bring a photo ID to the deposition.
A case may be delayed by the judge for many different reasons.
Many cases can be settled without trial, through negotiations between the Assistant State Attorney and the defense attorney. The victim will be consulted and his/her views considered during this process. Once the attorneys have agreed to settle the case, it is subject to acceptance by the judge. Plea negotiation is an accepted procedure that eliminates the need for a trial.
At this proceeding, witnesses testify under oath before a judge, and usually, a jury. It is the judge or jury that determines if the case has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Juvenile cases are heard by judges only and not juries.
If the defendant is found guilty or pleads, the judge decides what sentence should be imposed. While the judge has some discretion in the sentencing, he must still follow the sentencing guidelines. Depending on the type of crime and prior convictions, the guidelines provide a range of possible penalties. If the judge orders the defendant to pay restitution, the victim may be reimbursed for damages or losses suffered as a result of the crime. The victim has the right to make an impact statement at the sentencing.