Crime Victims - Standing Committee
The Crime Victims Committee is a standing committee of the State Bar of Texas. Its purpose is to educate the legal profession and the public about legal and social resources available to crime victims. You will find a list of frequently asked questions and answers below. Links to crime victim resources also follow.
Información en Español - Víctimas de Crimen - Comité Permanente
The Crime Victims Committee makes presentations to local bar associations and attorney and judicial groups. The Committee's presentation about ethical obligations to crime victims has been approved by the State Bar of Texas Continuing Legal Education for ethics credit. If interested, please contact the State Bar's Committees Coordinator at (512) 427-1516 or (800) 204-2222, ext. 1516.
Crime victims have a right under Chapter 56 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to be notified of all relevant court proceedings. Additionally, they have the right to be informed ahead of time if the proceedings have been cancelled or rescheduled. Victims should inform the prosecutor or victim assistance coordinator of their desire to be notified of court settings, as well as make them aware of any changes in contact numbers.
How will a victim know when something
with his/her criminal case?
A Texas law (Code of Criminal Procedure Article 56.08) requires prosecutors to give victims written notice about various important stages of a criminal proceeding. For instance, state prosecutors must notify victims no later than 10 days after a defendant has been charged with a crime. Read the statute here. Always feel free to call your local prosecutor's office. For cases that have not been filed, call the local law enforcement agency that investigated your case.
Victims may also request that the prosecutor notify them of any scheduled court proceedings, changes in that schedule, continuances (when a proceeding is postponed until a later date), and any plea bargain agreements that will be presented to a judge. (Code of Criminal Procedure Article 56.08(b).) If you have questions about the information you will receive, contact the Victim Assistance Division of your local prosecutor’s office for more specific information about the case.
Texas jails and prisons also participate in a automated notification program called Texas VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday). It is a free tool for crime victims and other concerned citizens that provides basic information on jailed or imprisoned offenders, case information and scheduled court events. It will notify registered users of changes in offender jail status, case and court events and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English or in Spanish. For more information about Texas VINE, see www.vinelink.com. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Victim Services Division also helps notify victims of prisoner releases. Call TDCJ at 1-800-848-4284.
Where can crime victims get counseling when
they can’t afford to pay for it on their own?
Texas has a Crime Victims' Compensation Fund that is designed to pay for some expenses related to the most serious types of crimes when the victim has no other way to pay. Counseling, for instance, is one of the types of expenses that CVC funds can help with. For more information about specific expenses covered by CVC funds, see the Texas Attorney General’s website: www.oag.state.tx.us or read the Crime Victims' Compensation brochure [PDF] For help filing a CVC fund request, contact the Victim’s Assistance Division in the local prosecutor’s office.
Start with these potential resources:
- Local, state, and federal government agencies may be able to
some funding sources. Contact your local Council of Governments and
• Governor's Office Criminal Justice Division
• Office on Violence Against Women
• The Department of Justice
• The Bureau of Justice Assistance
• Office for Victims of Crime
- The Texas Attorney General’s Office has limited funding for grants and/or contracts for direct services and support for crime victims. For more information see this brochure [PDF] For further information, call the office of the AG grants coordinator at (512) 463-0826.
- Justice Planning and Management Associates in Maine helps prosecutor offices track grant activity. For more information, see www.jpmaweb.com or call (207) 582-3269.
What is family violence?
Family violence is defined in Chapter 5 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure as: (1) an act of or threat to cause physical harm by one member of a family or household against another; (2) abuse of a child by a member of the child's family or household; and (3) dating violence.
"Family" includes blood relatives or relatives by marriage, former spouses, parents of the same child, foster parents and foster children, or any member or former member of a household (people living in the same house, related or not). The existence of dating relationships is determined by the length of the relationship, the nature of their relationship, and the frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved.
Who can help family violence victims obtain assistance and
Victims of family violence are entitled to the maximum protection from harm or abuse or the threat of harm or abuse as permitted by law. Family violence victims should contact their local law enforcement agencies, prosecutor, and family violence centers for assistance.
How can a family violence victim get a protective order?
A protective order is a civil court order issued to prevent continuing acts of family violence. The order can prohibit an offender from: (1) committing further acts of family violence; (2) harassing or threatening the victim (directly or indirectly); and (3) going to or near a school or day-care center attended by a child protected by the order.
Victims can apply for a protective order through the district or county attorney, a private attorney or through a legal aid service program. The application must be filed in the county in which the victim or the offender lives. There are no minimum time limits to establish residency, and protective orders are available in every county in Texas. These potential resources may also assist victims:
- For more information about the protective order process, see this brochure [PDF] from the Texas Attorney General’s website.
- For free protective order forms and other information, see www.TexasLawHelp.org.
- For information about domestic violence, shelters, emergency
resources generally, see the following websites:
• National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence
• National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-SAFE
• Texas Council on Family Violence
• Texas Advocacy Project
• Family Violence Legal Line: (800) 374-HOPE
• Sexual Assault Legal Hotline: (800) 295-SAFE
• Family Law Hotline: (800) 777-FAIR
What is Human Trafficking?
Human Trafficking is the illegal trade in human beings through
abduction, the use or threat of force, deception, coercion, fraud, or
sale for the purposes of sexual exploitation or forced labor. It also
includes people held against their will to pay off a debt. Human
trafficking does not require the crossing of an international border.
Examples of Human Trafficking: Slavery, Involuntary Servitude, Worker
Exploitation, and Sex Trafficking.
A victims' initial agreement to travel or perform some kind of labor does not allow an employer to later restrict that person's freedom or to use force or threats to obtain repayment. Consent of the victim is irrelevant- a person cannot agree to be trafficked. Human Trafficking victims can be found in Domestic help, Sweat Shops, Prostitution Rings, Child Pornography, Agricultural Work, Au Pair Programs, Janitorial Services, Construction, Restaurants, Salons.
Victims of Human Trafficking. Trafficking victims have rights regardless of immigration status, although non-resident victims of human trafficking are not eligible for crime victims' compensation in Texas. All trafficking victims can access police assistance, emergency shelter, medical care, and protective orders without the obligation to state their place of birth or immigration status. Other rights can include benefits such as food stamps, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), social services, and immigration relief. Additional resources and services are available for minors who are victims of Human Trafficking.
Texas Laws against Trafficking. The Texas Penal Code criminalizes the Trafficking of Persons. Read the Statute.
U.S. Department of Justice: For more information about the Trafficking of Persons.
For help, victims of Human Trafficking should call the Human Trafficking Complaint Line 1-888-428-7581, contact local law enforcement, or contact the local District Attorney's Office.
Owed to Victims of Crime/ Texas Crime Victims' Compensation
What Family Lawyers Need to Know About the Rights of Crime Victims in Texas
Assisting Sexual Assault Victims in Texas
Child Victims of Crimes
Federal Crime Victims
- Reporting Child or Elder Abuse or Neglect: Contact the Department of Family and Protective Services at (800) 252-5400 or see its website. Visit the website of Children's Advocacy Centers. For information about the court-appointed advocate program for abused or neglected children, see Texas CASA's website. For information about child abuse/neglect resources and laws, see this brochure [PDF] from the Texas Attorney General's Office.
- Sexual Assault: For information applicable to victims of sexual assault, see the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault’s website; and the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
- Family Violence: For assistance regarding domestic violence see the Texas Council on Family Violence website or the Texas Advocacy Project website for legal solutions to end violence.
- Texas Attorney General, Crime Victim Services Division
- Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Victim Services Division
- FAQs: For frequently asked questions about the criminal justice process, see an example written by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. Programs in other Texas counties may differ.
- Texas State Securities Board: The State Securities Board is responsible for regulating the securities industry in Texas. They register securities offered or sold in Texas and oversee the firms and individuals selling securities or providing investment advice to Texans. Contact the State Securities Board to file a complaint about the offer and sale of securities or about your securities dealer or investment adviser.
- Texas Department of Criminal Justice- Inmate Search: For information on a Texas Offender's TDCJ number, incarceration location, offense of conviction, incarceration history (offense, county and court of conviction of offenses for which the offender was incarcerated previously), current incarceration offense (county and court of conviction), and projected release date.
- Department of Justice/Office for Victims of Crime: Provides information and referrals for all victims of crime, including information for international crime victims and all states' crime victim compensation programs.
- National Center for Victims of Crime and National Organization for Victim Assistance: Reference and referral for all types of crime victims, ranging from sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence to identify theft and white-collar crime.
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: To report information on an Amber alert or for information on internet safety.
- Cyber Tip Line: To report instances of child sexual exploitation on the internet including child pornography, online enticement of children for sex acts, molestation of children outside the family, sex tourism of children, child victims of prostitution, and unsolicited obscene material or threats sent to a child on the internet, call (800) 843-5678 or visit the website.
- Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network: The nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization. RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline and carries out programs to prevent sexual assault, help victims, and ensure that rapists are brought to justice. See the website or call (800) 656-HOPE.
- National Center for Victims of Crime, Stalking Resource Center: Provides helpful information for victims of stalking.
- Parents of Murdered Children: Provides support and assistance to family and friends of homicide victims, including on-going emotional support, education, prevention, advocacy, and awareness. POMC has many local chapters throughout Texas and the country.
- Security on Campus: Provides information about crime victim assistance for crimes occurring on a college or university campus and what to do if you become a victim of campus sexual assault.
- Federal Trade Commission: Visit this site to report identity theft, or call the Federal Trade Commission at (877) 438-4338.
- Bureau of Prisons - Federal Inmate Search: For information on the status of a federal inmate.