Frequently Asked Questions

1. What rights do I have as a victim of crime in Massachusetts?

Victims have rights under the Massachusetts Victim Bill of Rights, Chapter 258B Massachusetts General Laws. For detailed information please see “Victim/Witness Assistance, A Handbook for Victims and Witnesses”- section on the Massachusetts Victim Bill of Rights.

2. I received a subpoena for court, but what if I can’t come?

If you receive a summons to appear in court to testify, your appearance is an order of the court and your presence is required. If you have an unavoidable reason that you cannot be there on that particular date or time, please contact the victim/witness advocate or assistant district attorney assigned to the case immediately. There may be serious legal consequences for not appearing. For related information, please see “What To Do If You Receive A Summons.”

3. Why am I needed to testify at court when I already gave a statement to the police?

The defendant is entitled to hear the testimony directly from a witness. Your statement cannot be a substitute for your appearance in court.

4. I’m concerned that my job may be in jeopardy if I take the day off to come to court as a witness. Can I get any help about this?

Your victim/witness advocate can prepare a letter to your employer explaining the need for your appearance in court and verifying your actual appearance in an effort to minimize any negative impact to you. According to the law, an employer may not fire, threaten to fire, or penalize an employee in some other way as a result of the employee's required attendance as a witness at trial, provided the employee has notified the employer of the subpoena to appear as a witness prior to his/her attendance.

5. When is this case going to be over?

Justice can take time. Some cases are resolved quickly, others may continue for a lengthy time until final disposition. Please keep in touch with your victim/witness advocate while the case is pending. Your role as a witness is important to the prosecution of this case and we appreciate your patience and cooperation.

6. What is a victim impact statement?

A victim impact statement is a written or oral statement made by the victim at the time of sentencing describing the physical, emotional and financial effects of the crime and making a recommendation to the court for the type of sentence to be imposed on the offender. If submitted in writing, the offender or the offender’s attorney will receive a copy of it prior to sentencing.

7. Why do the police need to hold onto my property and when can I get it back?

If your property was involved in a crime it may be needed for evidence. Once the court proceedings have concluded property can be returned to the victim. Your victim/witness advocate can assist you in making arrangements for the return of your property.

8. The court ordered the offender to pay me restitution for my out-of-pocket losses. When do I get my money?

If a judge orders an offender to pay restitution to the victim as part of an offender’s sentence, it is then up to the probation department for that court to monitor the collection of the restitution from the offender. The offender should make payments to the court which will then be forwarded to the victim. For further information contact the court probation department and request to speak with the supervising probation officer for the offender. If your address changes, you will also need to notify the court or probation department.