TexasBar.com

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

WHAT'S HERE

Crime Victims Committee Presentations
Notice of Criminal Proceedings
Counseling
Funding for Programs
Domestic/Family Violence
Human Trafficking
Ten Minute Mentors
State Resources
National Resources

CRIME VICTIMS COMMITTEE PRESENTATIONS

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.

NOTICE OF CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS

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 happens 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.

COUNSELING

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.

FUNDING FOR PROGRAMS

Where can victim services programs get information about potential funding sources?
Start with these potential resources:

DOMESTIC/FAMILY VIOLENCE

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 shelter information?
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:

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

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.

TEN MINUTE MENTORS

Responsibility Owed to Victims of Crime/ Texas Crime Victims' Compensation
Victims Rights
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

STATE RESOURCES

Several resources for crime victims are available at the state level.  Some of them include:

NATIONAL RESOURCES

The following websites also provide helpful information for victims of crime and service providers: 

{Back to top}