Victim/Witness Services

The Victim/Witness Services Division is a section of the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office. This Division is comprised of victim/witness coordinators who serve victims and witnesses in the criminal and juvenile divisions. Each coordinator provides information and support to crime victims and witnesses as their cases proceed through the judicial process. The goal of this Division is to help victims and witnesses understand their rights and responsibilities so that they can make intelligent choices about what is best for them.

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Services Provided

Crisis-Intervention & Supportive Services – When victimization occurs, it is not uncommon to have difficulty handling stress and new information. Coordinators work with victims to address these issues.

Explanation of the Criminal Justice Process – Coordinators can address and answer questions or direct victims to those who can.

Advocacy & Assistance during Court Proceedings – Victims have the right to have an advocate present with them during court appearances. Coordinators can also assist with safety planning and arrange for emergency transportation to court.

Assistance with Notification Process – Coordinators can provide details of case developments and court proceedings.

Assistance with Crime Victim Compensation – The Victim/Witness Division has application forms and information about available programs. Coordinators can assist victims with the preparation and filing of the application.

Assistance with Post-Conviction Issues – Coordinators can provide an explanation of the parole consideration process and help victims and survivors provide input.

Frequently Asked Questions

Ohio VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday) system links county sheriffs, county prosecuting attorneys, and state correctional facilities to create a comprehensive victim notification system. The Ohio system is part of a nationwide VINE program. A website or toll free hotline will provide information 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.

  • For inmate information, go to www.vinelink.com or call 1-800-770-0192.
  • Be prepared to provide the offender’s name or inmate number. To obtain an inmate number of a defendant in prison, go to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s website (www.drc.ohio.gov) and enter the defendant’s name under “Offender Search.”
  • When an inmate has a change in status, the call center will automatically begin to call all registered victims. Notification calls continue every half-hour for 24 hours or until the victim enters a Personal Identification Number (or PIN) to indicate a successful notification.
  • VINE will leave a message on an answering machine, but will continue to call every two hours until the 24-hour period is over.

Restitution is the repayment the judge orders the offender to pay for financial loss to the victim or others related to the crime. Restitution must be related to specific identifiable monetary loss that the victim suffered. Speculative damages, such as punitive damages or “pain and suffering,” are not restitution in a criminal case. Likewise, loss that has been reimbursed through some third party, such as an insurance company, cannot be awarded to the victim. Documentation of damages is vital to the restitution amount ordered by the court. Once restitution is ordered, it essentially becomes a civil judgment that the victim can use as a basis for collection activity.

While a case is pending, it is important to get this information to the Victim/Witness Office of the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office as soon as possible. Restitution cannot be ordered unless it is known to an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney. Documentation is vital to recovery. Victims are encouraged to contact the office even before receiving anything in the mail to alert the office to their financial loss. Contact the Victim/Witness Office at 330-740-2082 for information on felony cases and at 330-740-2244 for juvenile cases.

The Ohio Victims of Crime Compensation Fund is a fund established by the State of Ohio that provides financial relief to victims of crime, mostly violent crime, for specific financial losses suffered. Loss of property or the value of property through theft or damage is not covered by the Ohio Victims of Crime Compensation Fund. Instead the fund can cover such loss as health care costs for hospital bills and physician visits directly caused by the criminal act and counseling necessary for recovery from the act. There are several areas of recovery.

The Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office does not administrate this fund and has no authority over the acceptance of any applications or the release of any funds. The Victim/ Witness Office staff has applications to apply for funds and can offer some limited assistance in completing the forms. Application does not guarantee recovery, as several factors and circumstances are taken into account before a decision regarding acceptance of the application is made. Documentation of the losses is vital to recovery of funds.

For more information and to download an application or apply for compensation on-line, go to http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Services/Victims/Victims-Compensation-Application .  You can also call (800) 582-2877.

A pre-trial conference is a meeting between the judge and the attorneys to an action. It is typically held out of public view in the judge’s chambers. During such a conference, the parties and the judge will discuss the progress of the case, the exchange of information (known as “discovery”), any issues that may require a hearing, any plea negotiations, and generally anything else of relevance to the case. At these conferences, new dates are set for other conferences, motion hearings, plea dates or trial dates.

Generally, it is unnecessary for victims or witnesses to appear for pre-trial conferences and many do not. However, victims or witnesses are welcome to attend. It is best to notify either the prosecuting attorney or the Victim/Witness Coordinators ahead of time if you plan on attending. Several cases are set on a particular day and you may not be identified if the staff is unaware that you are coming. This could result in delays and leave you dissatisfied with the process.

A subpoena is a court order commanding you to appear at the time and date specified in the subpoena. A subpoena cannot be ignored or avoided. Failure to comply with it could lead to your arrest. Upon receipt of the subpoena, you should immediately contact the issuing party and discuss your testimony and any issues you have in appearing. Unless relieved of your duty, you must appear.

Often cases do not get continued. The case may be dismissed for failure to prosecute or, without your voice or appearance, the case may proceed or end in a way you feel is unsatisfactory. Additionally, the court may order a warrant for your arrest if you fail to appear.

The clerk’s office is required to reimburse you as a witness, based on a whole day/half day system. It will pay you for whole days or half days in which your appearance was required. If you stay longer than you are required, you will not be reimbursed for the additional time. You may also be entitled to compensation for the distance traveled to appear. You must present your subpoena to the clerk’s office in order to be compensated.

There is no requirement that a lawyer accompany you for any hearing in which you are required to appear as a witness. You may contact an attorney if you wish to discuss the need for counsel pursuant to the subpoena.

Generally, a trial is a pubic proceeding, which means that any member of the public can be present. However, witnesses in a trial are not allowed to be present in the courtroom unless allowed by the judge. Witnesses are generally not allowed to sit in a trial until after they have testified and, in some cases, even after they have done so.

Victims and witnesses are still citizens of the United States and Ohio. As such, they retain the right to speak to, or refuse to speak to, whomever they choose. You cannot be required to speak to someone unless you are in the courtroom or under similar requirement, such as a Grand Jury. Even if you are subpoenaed to a case, you are still not required to speak to anyone before you appear pursuant to that subpoena.

It would be improper for this office to attempt to dictate to whom you can speak or prohibit you from speaking to anyone you choose. That said, you can refuse to speak to them or may agree to speak under any conditions you desire, such as having counsel, police, a prosecuting attorney, or even a friend or family member present.

A Victim Impact Statement is quite simply a statement, either oral or written (or both) made by the victim of a criminal offense to the court, either given at or used at the time of sentencing which identifies for the court the impact the crime had on the victim or on others affected by the crime. It is one important factor of many factors the court considers when it determining the appropriate sentence for an offender.

Ohio Victims' Rights Laws

Also Known as Marsy’s Law

Marsy’s Law, named for Marsy Nicholas who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1983, was enacted by voters in November 2017 as an amendment to Ohio’s Constitution. California was the first state to adopt Marsy’s Law in 2008; Ohio is the sixth state to adopt the constitutional amendment, also known as the Ohio Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights.
 
Many of the crime victims’ rights guaranteed by Marsy’s Law already existed in the Ohio Revised Code or Ohio’s Rules of Evidence. Adding specific language to the Ohio Constitution, however, makes sure that everyone involved in the criminal justice system—police, prosecutors, court clerks, and judge—know what rights crime victims have. Moreover, the law explicitly makes available remedies to crime victims if their constitutional rights are violated.
 
Constitution
Article I, § 10a, Rights of Victims of Crime

(A) To secure for victims justice and due process throughout the criminal and juvenile justice systems, a
         victim shall have the following rights, which shall be protected in a manner no less vigorous than the
         rights afforded to the accused:

   (1) to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s safety, dignity and privacy;
   (2) upon request, to reasonable and timely notice of all public proceedings involving the criminal offense or
        delinquent act against the victim, and to be present at all such proceedings;
   (3) to be heard in any public proceeding involving release, plea, sentencing, disposition, or parole, or in any
        public proceeding in which a right of the victim is implicated;
   (4) to reasonable protection from the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused;
   (5) upon request, to reasonable notice of any release or escape of the accused;
   (6) except as authorized by section 10 of Article I of this constitution, to refuse an interview, deposition, or
        other discovery request made by the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused;
   (7) to full and timely restitution from the person who committed the criminal offense or delinquent act against
        the victim;
   (8) to proceedings free from unreasonable delay and a prompt conclusion of the case;
   (9) upon request, to confer with the attorney for the government; and
  (10) to be informed, in writing, of all rights enumerated in this section.

(B) The victim, the attorney for the government upon request of the victim, or the victim’s other lawful representative, in any proceeding involving the criminal offense or delinquent act against the victim or in which the victim’s rights are implicated, may assert the rights enumerated in this section and any other right afforded to the victim by law. If the relief sought is denied, the victim or the victim’s lawful representative may petition the court of appeals for the applicable district, which shall promptly consider and decide the petition.

(C) This section does not create any cause of action for damages or compensation against the state, any
      political subdivision of the state, any officer, employee, or agent of the state or of any political subdivision,
      or any officer of the court.

(D) As used in this section, “victim” means a person against whom the criminal offense or delinquent act is
     committed or who is directly and proximately harmed by the commission of the offense or act. The term
     “victim” does not include the accused or a person whom the court finds would not act in the best interests
     of a deceased, incompetent, minor, or incapacitated victim.

(E) All provisions of this section shall be self-executing and severable, and shall supersede all conflicting state
      laws.

This Section took effect on February 5, 2018

What does this mean to victims of crime in the State of Ohio?
It is important to note that this document includes a list of rights that each provision may encompass, it is not meant to be construed as an exhaustive list or definition of what each provision means. The rights are subject to legislative, judicial, and legal interpretation.

Who is a Victim?
The definition of “victim” is changed from the definition in Ohio Revised Code § 2930.
      Victim is now defined as the person against whom the criminal act is committed or the person directly and
      proximately harmed by the criminal offense. Currently, the definition of “victim” only includes victims of
      certain crimes who are identified as victims in a police report. Numerous Ohio courts have recognized the
      limitations of this definition, and have applied the more broad definition contained in Black’s Law Dictionary.
      For example, under Marsy’s Law, adult parents of a child victim could also be considered victims or
     persons in a vehicle who are injured as the result of a vehicular homicide could also be considered victims.

What are the Victim’s Rights?
     To secure for victims justice and due process throughout the criminal and juvenile justice systems, a victim
     shall have the following rights, which shall be protected in a manner no less vigorous than the rights afforded
     to the accused:

A.        The right to be informed, in writing, of Marsy’s Law rights.
      Several provisions of the Ohio Revised Code provide that victims have the right to be informed of victims’
      rights in Ohio.

B.        The victim, the attorney for the government upon request of the victim, or the victim’s other
     lawful representative, in any proceeding involving the criminal offense or delinquent act against
     the victim or in which the victim’s rights are implicated, may assert the rights enumerated in this
     section and any other right afforded to the victim by law. If the relief sought is denied, the victim
     or the victim’s lawful representative may petition the court of appeals for the applicable district,
     which shall promptly consider and decide the petition.


C.        The right to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s safety, dignity, and privacy.
      The right to be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect already existed in Ohio’s constitution. The right to
      privacy exists for all U.S. and Ohio citizens.

D.        The right, upon request, to reasonable and timely notice of all public proceedings and the
      right to be present at those proceedings.

  1. This right is triggered by a request from the victim. Upon that request, the victim must be notified of proceedings and must be allowed to attend all on the record proceedings in the case.
  2. Ohio Revised Code § 2930.06, § 2930.09, and Evidence Rule 615 have provided victims with these rights since the 1990s. Eight of Ohio’s twelve district courts have upheld victims’ rights to be present over defense objections.
  3. The right to be heard in public proceedings involving release, plea, sentencing, disposition,
    or parole, or in any proceeding that implicates a Marsy’s Law right.
         
    Ohio Revised Code § 2930.13, § 2930.14, and § 2930.17, among others, currently provide victims with the
          right to give victim impact statements at sentencing and parole hearings. Marsy’s Law expands the right to
          be heard to include other hearings such as release, including arraignment, and plea. The reasoning behind
          this is that the victim is often in a unique position to explain to the court the risk an offender poses upon
          release and to help the court understand the true impact of the crime before accepting a plea.

    F.         The right to confer with the prosecutor, upon request.
          Ohio Revised Code § 2930.06 already provides victims with the right to confer(speak) with the prosecutor.
          However, the right is no longer limited by the statutory language “to the extent practicable.”

    G.        The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay and a prompt conclusion of the case.
          Currently, Ohio Revised Code § 2930.08 provides victims the right to object to substantial delays in
          prosecution and to have those objections considered by the court. This provision essentially makes that
          guarantee enforceable.

    H.        The right to refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request by an accused, except
          as provided by Article I, Section 10 of Ohio’s constitution.

          This provision preserves the balance between Criminal Rule 16 and Criminal Rule 17(c). The United States
          Supreme Court (and the Ohio Supreme Court) have been very clear that criminal discovery and the
          mechanism to get information from third parties, like victims, in the criminal justice process are distinct.
          Criminal Rule 17(c) dictates that prosecutors and defendants must use subpoenas to get information from
          victims and other third parties.

    I.          The right to full and timely restitution from the offender.
          This provision makes restitution, which is currently discretionary, mandatory. Implementation language
          should include, but is not limited to: determination by preponderance of evidence standard, preservation of
          offender’s assets, civil judgements, and prioritized order in which restitution is paid.

    J.          The right to reasonable protection from the accused or any person acting on behalf of the
          accused.

         There are many Ohio Revised Code sections that provide victims with protections from the accused, such
          as the sections on protection orders, witness intimidation, protection of identification information, etc. This
          provision is essentially a summary of those pre-existing rights. It is a right to reasonable protection, so it
          will not pose a new and undue burden.

    K.        The right, upon request, to reasonable notice of escape or release of the accused.
          Victims of felony crimes in Ohio already have this right, and the Department of Rehabilitation and
          Correction and Department of Youth Services have an effective system and policies for complying with it.
          Marsy’s Law does expand the definition of victim to include victims of misdemeanors. All jails and prisons
          will now be required to provide notice, upon request of the victim.
    As a victim, you can register through VINE at 1-800-770-0192
     
    What Marsy’s Law Does Not Do
    Marsy’s Law does not:
  • Allow victims to act as prosecutors;
  • Give victims the right to appeal acquittals(not guilty verdicts);
  • Allow victims to sue criminal justice officials (law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, etc.) for rights violations;
  • Let either a prosecutor or an Ohio victim’s right lawyer unduly delay legal proceedings; or
  • Give victims the ability to control a criminal case.