The Victim Services Unit, located in the Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, helps to ensure fair and compassionate treatment for crime victims, whether or not an arrest has been made. Your role as a victim or witness is important, but the associated responsibilities may be unfamiliar to you. We will assist you in understanding the steps involved in bringing your case to trial and with the services available to help you during this difficult time.
We understand that not all crime victims or witnesses want to be involved in the court system; some may wish the case would disappear entirely. If that is true for you, know that you are not alone, and many others have been in your position. Participation of victims and witnesses is essential to maintaining safe communities, and we are here to support you throughout this process.
In order to present any case, witnesses must appear in-person at court and testify. Frequently, victims of a crime must testify in order to bring justice for themselves and for the safety of their communities. Also, persons who witness a crime or who simply know a fact relevant to a crime will also need to come to court and testify. Every day dozens of citizens successfully testify in the courts of Newport News.
In Virginia, Employers are required by law to excuse their employees absences to attend court pursuant to a subpoena. A subpoena is a court order that requires attendance in-person under penalty of law. If you are unavailable on the date of your subpoena, reach out to our office and we will try to accommodate your schedule.
Sometimes victims may want criminal charges to be dropped or dismissed. However, the decision to prosecute a case does not rest solely with the victim. Our office represents all citizens of Newport News and must pursue justice to help ensure a safe community for everyone. We want to support and work with victims and witnesses to ensure fair outcomes, but we cannot always drop charges at a victim’s request.
Many victims of domestic assault are surprised at the options available for ending a case, including probation and counseling, that allow for reconciliation while still promoting justice. Working alongside us can help you achieve an outcome that is fair under the unique circumstances of your situation. You can find more information by contacting a victim-witness advocate.
The Virginia Crime Victim and Witness Rights Act, sometimes called the Victims Bill of Rights, can be found in Virginia Code Section 19.2-11.01. The purpose of this law is to ensure that crime victims are informed of their rights, treated with dignity, respect, and sensitivity, and have their privacy protected to the extent possible by law.
Among other things, this law says that victims are entitled to a private waiting room for court proceedings, financial assistance in some circumstances, notice of all hearings, to give input on any proposed plea agreements, and to be heard at sentencing.
Additionally, under Virginia law (Virginia Code § 18.2-465.1) it is unlawful for an employer to penalize an employee for appearing in court pursuant to a summons or subpoena.
Criminal charges usually begin with an investigation by a law enforcement agency, such as the Newport News Police Department or Virginia State Police. At the conclusion of their investigation, the agency may forward their investigation to us for prosecution. Or, if the agency determines there is insufficient evidence to proceed, the agency may decline to forward the case for prosecution.
Less serious criminal charges may be issued by a magistrate upon the sworn testimony of a victim or witness, without the involvement of law enforcement.
To initiate a criminal investigation, you may contact the Newport News police department.
Commonwealth’s Attorneys and their assistants prosecute crimes that occur within their city or county. In some states, this is referred to as the “District Attorney” or “State’s Attorney”.
Commonwealth’s Attorneys represent the public by prosecuting criminal cases, and have the responsibility to ensure justice and fairness for all citizens.
No. If you have been charged with a criminal offense, you should speak to your own defense lawyer about your case, not the Commonwealth. If you cannot afford to hire a defense attorney, the Court will determine whether you financially qualify for a court appointed attorney. If you do qualify, the Court will appoint a defense attorney to represent you.
No. By law, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office represents the public, and only prosecutes criminal matters and handles very limited civil duties related to those matters. We do not represent individual people, and cannot assist in filing civil lawsuits.
If you need legal assistance that is not criminal in nature, you may wish to see if Virginia Legal Aid can assist you.
Our office is unable to provide legal advice to individuals.
If you are the victim in a criminal case that our office is handling, we would be happy to speak with you about the case. A good first step is to reach out to a victim advocate. To do that, just call 757-926-7443 and ask to speak to any victim advocate. The prosecutor assigned to the case will also be happy to speak with you as well.
The Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney prosecutes criminal cases that occur within the City of Newport News, on behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth. The elected Commonwealth’s Attorney is Mr. Howard E. Gwynn.