V.O.I.C.E. (Victim's Outreach for Intervention, Coordination and Empowerment) program is designed to help you as a crime victim cope with the occurrence of victimization and to help make your experience with the criminal justice system less traumatic.
Saline County Courthouse
19 E. Arrow
Marshall, MO 65340
V. O. I. C. E.
(Victims’ Outreach for Intervention, Coordination, and Empowerment)
Saline County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Thompson and Victim Advocate Tracy Shanahan want to serve as your V.O.I.C.E. in the criminal justice system.
This information is intended to introduce you to the criminal justice system, the Saline County Prosecutor’s Office and the Prosecutor’s Victim Advocate Program.
The Victim Advocate Program is designed to help you as a crime victim cope with the occurrence of victimization and to help make your experience with the criminal justice system less traumatic.
VICTIM’S BILL OF RIGHTS
Depending upon the severity of the offense, you may have the right to:
- Be informed of proceedings in the case, including the final disposition.
- Express your views to the sentencing court; either in person, by counsel, or in writing concerning the impact the offense has had on you.
- Upon request, be informed by the appropriate custodial authority whenever the defendant receives a temporary or final release from custody.
- Upon request, be informed of and to appear at parole hearings, or to offer a written statement in place of a personal appearance.
- Be notified when a court hearing will not be held as scheduled.
- Be provided with information regarding financial assistance and other social services available.
- Request restitution as an element in the final disposition of the case.
- Be notified of where to apply for and receive witness fees.
- Be provided with a secure waiting area when attending court as a witness.
- Receive prompt return of property not needed as evidence.
Saline County Prosecutor Don Stouffer and Victim Advocate Tausha Lembke will help to provide you with services fulfilling your rights.
WHO IS A CRIME VICTIM?
A crime victim is the person injured or the owner of property damaged as the result of a crime. In homicide cases, the deceased’s closest relatives are the victims. Being the victim of a crime is an emotionally upsetting experience; however, it is important that you cooperate fully with law enforcement officers and the Prosecuting Attorney. You may request to have the Victim Advocate with you for assistance and support during the investigation and prosecution of criminal offenses.
WHO DECIDES IF CHARGES ARE FILED?
Under Missouri law, the Prosecuting Attorney decides what charges are to be filed. After reviewing statements of witnesses, reports from law enforcement officers and other evidence, the Prosecuting Attorney will file charges if it appears that the suspect is guilty of a crime and that there is sufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In criminal cases, the Prosecutor represents all members of society, including the victim. If the Prosecutor proceeds with the case you may be called to testify or to attend court proceedings. You do not need to hire a private attorney for the criminal prosecution. At your request, the Victim Advocate may be able to accompany you throughout difficult times in the court proceedings.
WHAT IS MY ROLE?
Although decisions on filing charges and disposition of cases are up to the Prosecuting Attorney, you are a key witness and your input is a valuable tool when evaluating a case or deciding on a disposition. In that regard, the Prosecutor or the Victim Advocate may contact you. If you are needed to testify in Court, you will be notified by subpoena or personally contacted by a representative of the Prosecutor’s Office. If at any time you have questions with regard to your role in the court procedure, you may contact the Victim Advocate.
WHAT IF I WANT TO DROP THE CHARGES?
Sometimes, you may decide that you want to drop the charges. A crime committed against any person is a crime against the State of Missouri and only the Prosecuting Attorney can decide not to prosecute. Our community deserves protection from criminal wrongdoers. Because of this, the Court can compel the testimony of any witness, including the victim. Should you have any reluctance about testifying in a case, please discuss this concern with the Prosecutor or the Victim Advocate.
WHAT IF SOMEONE THREATENS ME TO DROP CHARGES?
If anyone threatens you or offers an incentive to convince you to drop charges, change testimony or fail to appear in Court as a witness, this person has committed a crime. You should immediately contact both the law enforcement agency that took the initial complaint and the Prosecutor’s Office. If you feel that someone is trying to influence your willingness to cooperate, although not making an outright threat, you can tell the person that the decision to drop charges is up to the Prosecuting Attorney and that you have no say in the situation.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE PERSON ACCUSED OF A CRIME?
After arrest, the defendant (the person accused of a crime) is arraigned in court. The arraignment is to review the amount of bail; to furnish the defendant with a copy of the charge; to see that legal counsel is obtained by the defendant or appointed by the Court; and to set the next court date. At times, the defendant, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office or the Court itself may seek a continuance (a delay) of the case.
WHAT IS A CRIME?
A crime is the violation of a statute enacted by the Missouri Legislature punishable by a fine, imprisonment, or both. There are three types of criminal offenses: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.
An infraction is a crime punishable only by a fine.
A misdemeanor is a crime that is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year, by a fine, or by both.
A felony is a crime that may be punishable by a state prison sentence, or, in a lesser felony offense, by imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year. Fines are also possible in some felony cases. Felonies are serious crimes such as rape or robbery. Some crimes such as stealing or assault can be charged as either felonies or misdemeanors, depending upon the circumstances of the crime.
WHAT IS A PRELIMINARY HEARING?
Preliminary hearings are not held for misdemeanors or infractions. If a criminal defendant is charged with a misdemeanor, the only court appearance you will usually be required to make is at the trial. In felony cases, a preliminary hearing is held before a judge to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to require the defendant to face trial. At this hearing, the judge must decide if there is probable cause that a felony has been committed and probable cause to believe the defendant committed the felony. If so, the judge “binds over” the defendant to face the charges in Circuit Court. The judge does not make a finding of guilt or innocence at this stage. Because the burden of proof is less at a preliminary hearing than at a trial, the Prosecution usually does not call all of its witnesses to testify. The defense rarely puts on any evidence at this hearing, and may waive a preliminary hearing.
If the case is presented to the Grand Jury and the defendant is indicted, a preliminary hearing is not required. Grand Jury proceedings are closed to the public and may not be discussed outside the Grand Jury room. Once an indictment occurs, the case is referred directly to the Circuit Court for trial.
After a preliminary hearing has been conducted or the Grand Jury returns an indictment, a felony case is sent to the Circuit Court for trial. A jury or the judge will determine guilt or innocence. If a defendant is found guilty or enters a plea of guilty, the Circuit Court Judge will impose sentence. A Sentencing Assessment Report (SAR) is sometimes completed by the Department of Probation and Parole. Sentencing Assessment Reports are generally ordered only if there is no plea agreement and are an aid to the Circuit Judge in determining the appropriate sentence.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF BAIL?
Bail is cash or a surety bond to assure the defendant’s appearance in court at the next scheduled hearing. The amount or value of bail is set by the court and may vary depending on a number of factors including the seriousness of the offense charged. The defendant will be held in the County Jail if unable to post bond. If bond is posted, the defendant will be free pending outcome of the case.
WHAT IF THE DEFENSE ATTORNEY CONTACTS ME ABOUT THE CASE?
The defense attorney or a private investigator hired by the defense attorney may contact you. We cannot advise you to refuse to speak with persons connected with the defendant, but you may request that an attorney from the Prosecutor’s Office be present when you are being questioned.
WHAT IS A DEPOSITION?
A deposition is the recorded testimony of a witness, given under oath in the presence of both the defense attorney and the Prosecuting Attorney. The purpose of taking a deposition is to determine and preserve the testimony of a witness.
DO I HAVE A SAY IN SENTENCING?
In most felony cases, you have the right to make a statement to the Court prior to sentencing. This statement may be in writing, or it may be made orally to the Court. The statement must relate to the facts of the case and injuries or financial loss you have suffered. In cases where the Department of Probation and Parole prepares a Sentencing Assessment Report (SAR), you will be asked to make a victim impact statement. The Court will take into consideration your statement in deciding what sentence to impose.
WHAT IS A PLEA BARGAIN?
In return for the defendant pleading guilty, the Prosecutor and defense counsel may reach an agreement as to what the Prosecutor will recommend as punishment. The defendant usually enters a plea agreement to avoid a trial. The prosecutor may agree to the plea to avoid the stress of requiring you to testify, because there are evidence problems, or to save public expense.
WHAT ABOUT RESTITUTION FOR ME?
One of the goals of the Saline County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is to compensate you for monetary losses whenever possible. If you believe restitution may be owed, you must notify the Victim Advocate immediately. If a defendant is placed on probation, he or she may be ordered by the Court to make restitution to you for actual out-of-pocket expenses. For example, this would include reimbursement for medical bills in an assault case, or for repair bills in a property damage case. Restitution is often ordered to be paid over a period of time. The failure to pay restitution as ordered by the Court may cause the defendant’s probation to be revoked.
In certain types of cases where you have suffered a personal injury, you can file a claim with the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund. The Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund covers only crimes where you suffered a physical injury, or are seeking reimbursement for lost wages, funeral expenses, and counseling expenses as a result of a violent crime. It does not cover the theft of property or damage to property. The Victim Advocate will help you when you are making a claim to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund.
Prosecutor’s Office/Victim Advocate
Saline County Courthouse
19 East Arrow Street
Marshall, MO 65340
Your Voice in the Criminal Justice System
Saline County Prosecutor’s Office
- Tim Thompson - Prosecuting Attorney
- Hannah Bedford - Assistant Prosecuting Attorney
- Tracy Shanahan - Victim Advocate
Saline County Courthouse
19 E. Arrow, Room 100
Marshall, Missouri 65340